If you’ve ever considered getting a private registration plate for a new car but you’ve never actually gone through the process yet, you’ve probably heard a lot of stories and anecdotes about how complex and how difficult it is. On the face of things, it can look a little daunting, but it’s a lot easier than you might think once you start to get your head around it. It’s also easier these days than it used to be when everything had to be done through the post or at a DVLA authorised post office.
Here we’re going to look at how you actually go about transferring a number plate to a new car and hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’ll have no concerns whatsoever about buying a number plate you like the look of for your new car and getting it transferred to your new vehicle.
The easy scenario
Let’s assume that you already own the registration number you want to put on your new vehicle and that the vehicle is brand new and hasn’t been registered with a number already. All you have to do is tell the dealer you’re buying the car from that you have a private plate and you want it on your new car, and you then supply that dealer with the relevant documentation.
If you already own the registration number you will have either a V778 or a V750 document showing you are the owner of that number, or if you’ve done everything online you may then have an online reference number instead.
A V750 is what you will have if you’ve bought a number that has never been registered to a vehicle in the past, and a V778 is what you will have for a number that has been on a vehicle before. You will often hear both of these referred to as “retention certificates,” but only having an online reference number is the same thing in a modern virtual online format.
Your dealer will be registering the new vehicle for you, so as long as you’ve supplied the relevant documentation and information your new vehicle will be registered from day one with your personal plate.
Old car to brand new car transfer
Things do get a little more complicated and it can be a bit more time consuming if your private plate is still on a car and you want to transfer it to a brand new vehicle you’re buying. The process of registering the vehicle with your personal registration number is exactly the same, but you have to have that number removed from your old car first.
The first thing you need to do in these circumstances is to obtain a V778 or an online reference number that takes your number from your old car and another number will then be issued to it. This will cost you £80 and it can be done entirely online at the DVLA website, but if you’re particularly old-school it can still be done through the post if you prefer. The only documentation you’ll need to hand to do this is your vehicle’s V5C registration document.
Once again, if you’re buying a brand new car from a dealer they’ll probably be only too happy to do all this on your behalf, although they’re not likely to swallow the £80 fee unless that’s something you’ve agreed as part of the deal, so you’ll need to be prepared to be charged for that.
DIY plate transfers
Not so very long ago, if you needed to transfer a plate from one car to another or you even just wanted to put a number you’d bought onto a vehicle you already owned it could be a lot of hassle if you didn’t have the help of a dealership’s sales administration department to do it for you. It all had to be done through the post and at a designated post office, and heaven help you if you didn’t have all the correct paperwork with you when you went up to that little window to do the deed.
These days, completing the transfer of a registration number from one vehicle to another couldn’t really be much easier, and it’s particularly easy if you currently own both the donor and the receiving vehicle. All you need are the two V5C registration documents and the whole thing can be done in a couple of minutes on the DVLA website using the online system, and once you get confirmation of the transfer you then fit the new physical plates to the vehicles and away you go.
Once again, it can be done through the post or at designated post offices using a V317 form, but most transfers will be done today online.
Making things as easy as they are now really is something the DVLA needs to be commended for, but a system as easy and convenient as the transfer process now also opens up new possibilities for the unscrupulous among us too. All you need your V5C for when doing a transfer or for putting your number on retention is the appropriate reference number printed on the V5C, and anyone can use that number if they have it.
If you’re buying a vehicle or selling your old vehicle privately and there’s a registration number transfer involved, please don’t share images of your V5C registration document with someone you don’t know. If you have a private, personalised or cherished number and someone else gets to see the relevant details on your V5C, they could go online and transfer that number to themselves.
In the long-term, you’d probably be able to get your number back, but it could be a long, drawn-out, and potentially expensive process, so prevention is definitely a lot better than a cure in those circumstances.
It definitely used to be the case that a private registration number was one of the safest investments you could ever make. While a crook could steal your physical number plates off your car, the number would still be registered to you with the DVLA and it couldn’t be transferred to anyone else without your V5C, insurance certificate and MOT certificate if applicable.
Doing a transfer is about as easy as it could possibly be today, but like anything going online, it does open up possibilities for fraud. Just keep your V5C details to yourself unless you’re delegating the process to someone you can trust, and enjoy the fact a transfer is much, much less of a hassle today than it used to be.