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Posted by Sean Cooper

Stealing a number plate isn’t the same as stealing your registration number

Private number plates can be a lot of fun, they can disguise the real age of your vehicle, and it doesn’t matter if the car or even just the plates are stolen as you can simply get a new set made because the registration number itself is owned by you, right? Not necessarily it seems. There are a couple of potential “risks” associated with owning a private number plate you need to consider before you take the plunge and buy one for yourself.

Insurance risk

The first thing to consider is a little abstract and there are probably a lot of other things to worry about before you get to this one, but it’s how the private plate makes your vehicle look on the road. Although having a private plate on your car doesn’t affect your cover, there is a school of thought that suggests a private plate could attract unwanted attention from car thieves and vandals.

Mark Greening, the car insurance spokesperson at comparison website Go Compare, recently told the Daily Express: “Personalised number plates are growing in popularity. In the financial year 2018-19, the DVLA says that it sold almost 404,000 personalised registration plates. But as only six percent of car insurance policies specifically cover the cost of a personalised number plate it’s something to think about before investing.”

He went on to add: “Although a personalised plate won’t directly affect the cost of your insurance, it can impact how it looks on the road to other drivers which poses a risk.”

As far as you having to pay a higher insurance premium just because you have a private plate is concerned, it’s unlikely to ever come to that. You can make a similar argument for choosing certain exterior colours that statistics say make them more likely to get stolen or vandalised. Let’s be honest, a flash car with a private number plate isn’t going to be attacked or stolen because of its number plate, is it?

Risk of “losing” your private plate

If you thought that although your vehicle could be stolen or written off your registration number was an asset you hold in your name that can’t be lost or taken from you, then you might want to think again. Go Compare is warning drivers that if they have a vehicle stolen that has a private plate on it, they may have to wait as long as a year for the return of their number so they can use it again.

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst-case scenario either. It turns out that in some circumstances, you could even lose the private number to the insurance provider so you wouldn’t be able to use it again or sell it on.

Owners of private number plates can even have their cherished number “destroyed” in some cases, such as when a car is scrapped after becoming a total write-off following an accident.

Anyone of thinking of buying a private registration number needs to be aware they could lose that number completely in the event of the vehicle it’s on being stolen or written off. If your insurance policy includes private plate cover and your vehicle is stolen or written off, you will receive a settlement payout that will include the cost of the plate. Unfortunately, although you wouldn’t be out of pocket financially, the insurer would then be the owner of the vehicle your plate was registered to. This means they would also then also hold the rights to what was previously your private registration number.

As long as the insurer hasn’t already sold your number on, or had the vehicle destroyed with the plate still assigned to it, you might be able to buy the number back.

A written-off car being destroyed could mean losing your number plate too

How to avoid “losing” your plate

Although you probably can’t guarantee your private plate isn’t at risk if your vehicle is stolen or written off, there are measures you take to reduce the risk. First of all, you could make sure your insurer is aware that the vehicle you are insuring with them has a private number fitted.

You might think it’s obvious your car has a private registration number, but it might not be obvious to your insurer’s computer system. If you have a “15” plate on your car, for example, even though your car might have been registered this year, it probably won’t be seen as a private plate by your insurer unless you make them aware.

As well as making your insurer aware that your vehicle has a private plate, you could also ask your insurance provider to issue a declaration that in the event of your vehicle being stolen or written off, they will hold “no interest” in your plate.

If you are unlucky enough to have your vehicle is stolen with your private plate on it, you will still have to wait up to 12 months to get your personalised number back and you will be asked to provide proof that your car had a valid MOT and road tax at the time it was stolen.

It’s also important to remember to change the registration number details on your insurance policy if you buy a private plate for your car as soon as you assign that number to your vehicle. If you don’t, there’s always the chance you could get incorrect fines issued to you as it will look to the DVLA as though you are still insuring a vehicle with that old number.

Stay on top of your insurance to keep hold of your private plate

Private plates are still a relatively safe investment

One thing is still certain, and that’s the fact you can’t have your registration number stolen from you by a thief unscrewing the number plates from your vehicle. They could take them and put them on another car to avoid being identified, but as long as you are on top of your paperwork it’s easy to prove the number is yours and be absolved from any crimes that may have been committed using the stolen plates.

As long as you don’t share images showing the details on your V5 registration document, you make sure your insurance company knows you’ve put a private plate on your vehicle, and as long as the insurer has declared they won’t hold an interest in it in the event of a theft or write-off situation, your investment is pretty safe.