Frequently Asked Questions About Personalised Number Plates

DVLA typically assigns random number plates with the appropriate local memory tag and age identifier to every vehicle registration. A personalised number plate, however, is a user selected alphanumeric number plate permutation, obtained either by buying from DVLA’s auction site or through private sales with the plate owner.


When DVLA began to officially manage personalised number plate registration in 1989, the bulk of registrations were made by the highly affluent demographic. However, over the last couple of decades, private registrations have become more common with the middle class and upper middle class demographic. Nevertheless, a large number of people remain unclear about the concept of private number plates. In light of that, we have prepared a five point Q&A to help elucidate the topic better.

1. Why should you buy a personalised plate?

It is mandatory for every vehicle in UK to display number plates. However, instead of just using the automatically and randomly generate alphanumeric sequence assigned by DVLA, motorists have the option of purchasing unique and memorable permutations which can also express their individuality and increase their social status. Other reasons for buying private plates include masking the age of their vehicles and as an investment.

2. Is personalised number plates expensive?

Yes and no. Cherished, or dateless number plates, are quite expensive and run into thousands of pounds as they have no age identifier. In addition, the shorter the cherish plate is, the higher the price will be. A few 3 character cherished plates have been sold for half a million pounds.

The price for number plates using the current format is relatively much, much lower. Prices at DVLA’s auction site start from £250.

3. Where can I go to buy private plates?

Anywhere where it’s being sold – eBay, your neighbour, car dealers, or at auction houses. There are no buying restrictions. For most though, DVLA’s online auction site is the preferred location. The database is huge (there are 53 million possible permutations now) and transactions are very safe. DVLA’s live auction, held periodically throughout the year, is also a good option as a number of high quality plates are usually reserved for the auction. Wherever you chose to go, just exercise caution and make sure the transaction is documented.

4. Are there any hidden transaction fees?

None. There are only two fees involved – an £80 assignment fee and a £25 annual retention fee. However, please keep in mind of VAT charges as well as broker or dealer fees.

Why does DVLA prevent me from buying a 2018 number plate for my 2010 car?

UK’s current number plate format includes an age modifier which indicates the year of registration of the particular vehicle. Since the value of a car lies primarily with its age, DVLA must ensure that number plates are never used to deceive and for profiteering.