The Dos and Donts of Buying Personalised Number Plates

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Personalised Number Plates

Customers who want to buy a personalised numbered licence plate can expect to pay top dollar for the most sought after number and letter combinations available in the UK. The most expensive numbered licence plate ever was the 'F1' plate which sold for £440,000 in 2008. The proud owner, Afzal Khan placed the Formula One initials on his Mercedes-Benz MacLaren, which interestingly enough cost £200,000 less than the plate itself.

In a world where buyers are limited by the number and letter combinations they can use on their car, finding a special personalised number plate is rare. Car owners can get these items directly from the DVLA, or they can peruse eBay to find a wide variety of cherished number plates for sale. Buyers who focus on the personal message behind the plate while sticking to their budget and not getting bogged down in expensive options can purchase a plate that gives them pleasure for years to come.

Do Set a Budget

Buying a personalised licence plate can get quite expensive, as demonstrated from the F1 example above. The most desirable plates are sold at auction directly from the DVLA, and they sometimes turn up again on eBay. Even personalised plates that do not have a wide appeal can still sell for hundreds of pounds, and the right buyer would gladly pay this sum. Before owners start looking for customised licence plates, it is best to set a budget and then stick to it.

Don't Be Inflexible

Once buyers set a budget, it is important to stick with the personalised number plate options they can afford. Being inflexible can cause trouble for buyers, as it may make them feel as if they have to break their budget in order to get the perfect licence plate. This is not a good strategy when it comes to navigating the world of UK numbered plates.

Plate Styles

UK vanity plates come in four styles. The dateless style is the most expensive and the one that tempts most buyers out of their price range. A dateless plate simply means that the date of the car is not openly displayed on the licence plate as it is with all the other types. Buyers who have a good deal of money to spend usually go this route because these plates are seen as highly desirable.

Plate Style


Current Style


Prefix Style

A123 ABC

Suffix Style

ABC 123A

Dateless Style

1 ABC or ABC 1

Settling for a prefix or suffix number plate that includes the date as well as a personal message still gets the point across for many consumers. In fact, buyers can even be creative and use the date of their car to work in their advantage. For example, a buyer whose name or nickname is Ali and has a car made after 2011 can choose a current style registration plate of AL11 ROX.

Do Pick a Style With Personal Appeal

Since personalised number plates are going to appear on both the front and back of the car, it is best to select one that appeals to the driver for more reasons than the price. Some buyers only want the most expensive licence plates to use as a status symbol, but after a few years the plate may lose its appeal. Choosing a plate that fits the buyer's personality or car is the better option for long term use. It also helps customers stick to their budget and avoid competing with others who have bigger and deeper pockets.

Do Have Several Options

Buyers who approach a personalised number plate search with the idea of having only one perfect choice are bound to be disappointed. If it is a popular slogan, then it is likely someone else already selected it and applied for the plate. Since a single owner gets to keep the same plate every three years and can renew it for as long as he or she likes, buyers are going to have to wait if the personalised plate they want is already taken. It is better to think of several possible number and letter combinations that just focusing on one.

Don't Ignore Fees

The DVLA charges an assignment fee and an add/change details fee on all personalised licence plates. The assignment fee is used to assign a plate to a vehicle. The add/change details fee is used in transferring ownership. Together these fees are quite costly and can be a surprise if the buyer is on a tight budget already. Sellers on eBay should list what fees are required upfront before a buyer makes a purchase. If no fee information is displayed, ask the seller about these charges.

Do Make Sure the Plate has its Paperwork

Buying a personalised plate from a private seller is worthless if it does not come with the paperwork the DVLA needs. Papers are needed for the application process, and not having them can cause delay and sometimes downright refusal by the DVLA to grant the owner a new licence plate. If the plate is still being used, then it needs to come with the V750 document of entitlement. If the plate is not being used, but the seller has put the number on retainer, then it needs to come with a V778 retention document. Both of these must be signed by the person named on the document.

V5C Form

The seller needs to also send along a V5C form that authorises the sale of the vanity plate. It is the buyer's responsibility to gather all of these forms together along with a MOT certificate for cars and trucks older than three years, and submit the application to the DVLA. Again, sellers should openly state that the plate has its paperwork, but it is better to ask just to make sure than to be disappointed once the plate arrives.

Don't Make the Vehicle Look Newer

Some car owners try every trick in the book to attract more attention towards their vehicle. Over the past few years, the DVLA has eased some restrictions on personalised licence plates. For example, plates that used risqué words like 'SEX' or 'DAM' were once forbidden but are now allowed. However, the DVLA frowns upon any personalised licence plate that tries to make the vehicle look newer than it actually is.

Illegal Practices

Buyers are actually quite clever when it comes to trying to find ways around this rule. In the UK, the year of the car must be displayed on the licence plate unless it is a dateless plate. However, owners who have a slightly older car can work around this issue by using letters that look like numbers. For example, if an owner has a car made in 2002 but wants it to look newer, he can construct a personalised licence plate that uses the letters I and O. From a distance these letters look like the number 10, suggesting that the car was made in 2010.

Don't Place a Personalised Plate on a Q Plate

The DVLA has special requirements for vehicles that have a tax exempt status, including cars that were registered overseas. These cars include the letter Q in their prefix to set them apart. Owners who have a car with a Q prefix cannot apply for a personalised number plate.

Buying Personalised Number Plates on eBay

If you are in the market for a personalised number plate, then eBay is an excellent place to expand your search. Sellers who have vanity plates already registered as either in use or on retainer often sell the plates through eBay. It is the perfect place to get a plate that you simply cannot find anywhere else.

Finding Personalised Number Plates on eBay

Start your search by typing in 'personalised number plates' into eBay's search engine box. This action immediately lists all available vanity plates in the UK. There are likely thousands, so trying to browse through the entire list takes too long. You can narrow down your search by looking for the type of plate, such as 'dateless plate' or another variation. You can also search for plates that already have their fee paid by typing in 'personalised number plate assigned fee paid' into the search engine. Repeat this type of search for the detail fee or the registration mark as needed in order to further narrow the results.


Adding a personalised number plate onto a car allows drivers to make their car as individual as themselves. Customers often have a lot of fun thinking of the different letter and number combinations they can use to craft the perfect plate, and eBay has a wide selection that can meet anyone's needs. Try setting a budget before starting the search and remember to stay flexible about different options. Pick a style that is personally appealing instead of trying to buy the most expensive variant on the market. Make sure the plate being sold has information about the fees that need to be paid and comes with all the requisite paperwork. Finally, stay away from buying a personalised plate that tries to get around DVLA regulations such as those that attempt to obscure the car date or replace Q plates. By following these suggestions, buyers can end up with a personalised number plate that fits perfectly with their lifestyle.

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