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How to transfer a private registration number to another car

Would you pay more than half a million pounds for a private number plate? That is the most anyone has paid for a private registration – sometimes called a cherished number plate – after bagging ‘25 O’ for their classic Ferrari 250 GT.

James Mills
Written by James Mills
Edited on
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The good news is you don’t have to hand over such eye-watering sums of money. Hundreds of thousands of drivers in the UK have been buying affordable posh plates since the DVLA first started selling them to drivers, in 1989.

Prices of private number plates from the DVLA start at £250, including VAT and an £80 transfer fee. To date, they have raised more than £2bn for the government. Some independent number plate traders offer even cheaper deals.

Many drivers like them for their sense of fun; wordplay is common amongst private plates. Other motorists like to have their initials on the registration, with some couples arranging ‘his and her’ registrations. And a good number simply prefer to hide the age of their vehicle from other drivers.

Quentin Wilson, the television presenter, told the BBC that private plates have an aesthetic quality for some drivers: "It is about being visually pleasing. For a motoring-obsessed nation they are a suburban trinket. A number plate is a form of automotive jewellery. You can either change your car or change your number plate, and changing your number plate is cheaper."

In the case of plates that feature wordplay or initials, many drivers become attached to them. So when the time comes to change their car, they want to move the registration across to their next model. We explain how to transfer a private registration to another car.


image of a private registration licence plate


Transferring a private registration plate

When a private plate is already held on a vehicle, and you are either selling the car and moving the plate to another motor, or just transferring the plate to another car, the first thing to do is place the registration on retention.

That means you have to be the keeper of the existing car, and it should be registered with the DVLA and must have been taxed for the last five years or declared off the road (SORN – Statutory Off Road Notification)

It costs £80 to place the number on retention, which goes to the DVLA. You will need your car’s log book (the V5C vehicle registration certificate), and a debit or credit card to make the payment. 

Start by visiting the DVLA’s online portal,  where you will enter the private registration you wish to place on retention, and the 11 digit document reference from the current car’s V5C.

The current car is then issued with a replacement registration number.

The DVLA will issue you with a reference number at the end of the process, which can be used to transfer the private plate to another vehicle immediately. Or you will be issued with a V778 retention document, giving you the right to use the private registration for the next 10 years.


If you already own the car you’ll be transferring the plate to

If you own the car that’s getting the private plate, you need the V5C registration certificate and the vehicle should have been taxed or declared SORN for the last five years.

Using either the reference number from the DVLA (see above section) or the V778 retention document, you can apply to place the private plate on the new vehicle. It’s free to do, and once complete the DVLA will send you a new log book (V5C) in the post.

Remember, the new number plates must be put on the vehicle before you drive it.


image of 3 different private registration licence plates


If you don’t own the car you’ll be transferring the plate to

If you are buying a new car from a dealer, you can give them the V778 retention document and they will be able to transfer the private plate to the car you’re buying. Once this is done, the DVLA will send you a new log book (V5C) in the post.


The rules around replacement plates

Remember, new number plates have to conform to certain regulations. They must be made from a reflective material, the front plate should display black characters on a white background and the rear plate should show black characters on a yellow background. Background patterns aren’t allowed, and the letter spacing, size and style must meet regulations detailed here.