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Posted by Sean Cooper
March 18th, 2021 at 6:10 pm

When it comes to private number plates and insurance, let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. You can’t have your private number stolen by someone unscrewing the front and rear number plates on your car and running off with them. All your plates are is a physical display of the registration number associated with you and registered to your vehicle by the DVLA. You won’t have to make a claim with your insurance company to reclaim any loss because the crime won’t have cost you any more than a few quid to get a new set of plates made up.

Just because someone has the physical plates doesn’t mean they actually have your number. All you’d have to do in these circumstances is get another set of plates made and fit them to your vehicle. You also ought to inform the police of the theft in case the thief puts them on another car to avoid that vehicle being traced back to them. That way you can avoid being involved in any disputes about you being involved in any wrongdoing.

Does your insurer need to know you have a private plate?

If your vehicle had your private number on it when you took out your current insurance policy your insurer will already know. If, however, you buy and allocate a private plate to your vehicle once your insurance is already up and running you really should inform your insurer right away. Insurance companies love a loophole when it comes to claims, and if you have to make a claim and your vehicle now has a different registration number to the one stated on your policy, you could be in for a bit of bother.

Can a private plate affect your insurance premium?

You may or may not be surprised to learn there isn’t a hard and fast rule as far as private plates affecting insurance premiums. What you will probably know is that all sorts of things are considered by insurance companies when deciding a premium and some of those things may not be obvious or even particularly transparent.

We all know that the age, make, model, value, mileage and performance of the vehicle are all considered, along with your details such as age, address and claims history. Lots of other things are also sometimes claimed to be factored into the algorithms, such as the colour of the car and how that relates to accident and theft statistics.

There are arguments to be made for a private plate being a good reason to reduce a premium, but there are counter-arguments for the case of increasing premiums if a vehicle has a private plate. A private plate could make a vehicle more distinct and therefore easier to track down if stolen. On the other hand, it could be suggested that a private number plate could also attract unwanted attention from thieves as well as mindless vandals.

Because there are these arguments and counterarguments it’s generally thought that a private plate won’t make a great deal of difference to your premium one way or another.

Is there any reason to insure a private plate?

If a thief can’t steal your private number by simply running off with your front and rear plates, is there any reason to seek special provision to insure your number?  Actually, there could be, especially if you have a particularly expensive number such as A1 or TAX 1.

If you’re not careful, it is possible to lose your private registration number in a couple of ways. The most common way would be in the event of your vehicle being involved in an accident and then being written off by the insurance company. When an insurance claim is made in these circumstances, the insurer takes ownership of the vehicle and the registration number when it pays out to settle the claim. It makes no difference what the registration number is.

Some policies will make provision for a private plate to be retained by the owner in such circumstances, although a small fee may be involved and the number will have to be put on retention or transferred to another vehicle and you will have to cover the costs involved there. Remember, registration numbers move with the vehicle they have been assigned to and not the owner. If the car is scrapped the number could go with it unless your insurer contacts the DVLA in advance to inform them you want to keep it, and your insurer will be required to write a letter of non-interest and send it in to the DVLA.  

In the event of a car being stolen and not recovered, the owner will have to wait a full year to reclaim their private registration number and they will also have to prove the vehicle had a valid MOT and road fund licence at the time of the theft. If you leave it too late into the scrapping process to inform the DVLA your number will be lost.

Is there any sort of uninsurable loss?

It’s obviously not impossible to insurance against ignorance or even stupidity to some extent, but there is a way you could lose your private number plate that could be difficult to insure against. With buying, selling, allocating and transferring numbers online all possible and increasingly frequent these days, you could lose your private plate inadvertently.

If you were to put an image of your V5C registration document in an advert when selling your vehicle or if you sent an image to a prospective buyer in an email, it’s perfectly possible for someone to use those details to transfer that plate from your vehicle to theirs or to put it on retention in their name.

Obviously, this is a crime and you would probably be able to prove what’s happened eventually, but it could be a long, drawn-out and potentially expensive mistake to correct. Also, if you sell your car and you don’t transfer the number or put it on retention before payment is received and the documentation completed, the buyer could refuse to let you keep your number.

It may be possible to find a company to insure you for such ineptitude or carelessness, but it would be an awful lot easier and cheaper to just make sure you do everything correctly in the first place and never publish or send images of your V5C to someone you don’t know intimately.