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Personalised Number Plates: an Overview


Some vehicle number plates, intentionally or by coincidence, may be seen as conveying something about their owners. These, especially the ones where the effect is deliberate, are known as personal number plates. They may resemble words or names, they may contain initials or birthdates... The possibilities are bounded only by the owners’ imaginations, and by the limitations imposed by the UK’s rigid rules about the format to which number plates must conform.


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You may hear alternative terms used: personalised number plates, private number plates, cherished plates, cherished registrations and so on, but these are all synonymous.


How They Work

The representation of names and words etc is mostly achieved by using numbers which resemble letters in combination with actual letters. This is usually unavoidable, as the UK registrations system does not permit more than three actual letters to appear consecutively without intervening numbers.

To illustrate the principle described, consider the registration number H34 VEN. If one allows that the 3 bears some resemblance (albeit a laterally reversed one) to the letter E, and that a 4 can look like an A, then a seemingly random string of characters becomes the word “HEAVEN” – an appropriate personalised number plate for a clergyman, perhaps. Similarly, consider B16 DAY. The number one is the same shape as the letter I, and with a little imagination one could easily allow the number 6 to represent the letter G. “BIG DAY” would, therefore, be a fine registration for a limousine hire company that specialised in wedding cars.


How to Get Personalised Number Plates

It probably doesn’t occur to most people, but one does not necessarily have to keep the number that is allocated to a car when one purchases it. It is quite a simple process to purchase a different registration and to transfer it to a vehicle. One simply needs to find a desirable number – perhaps using an online search facility like those provided by Regtransfers.co.uk – and then to approach a specialist company who will take care of the formalities and paperwork.

Conversely, if one’s car bears a number plate that may appeal to someone else, it is possible to sell it, and to have a new number issued to replace it.

Buying and selling registrations is not difficult, but neither is it quite as easy as simply buying or selling the plastic number plates and then swapping them over. One has to go through a proper official process, because what is really being traded is the entitlement to display a registration number, and to have that number associated officially with one’s vehicle. The law is very strict in its insistence that all paperwork is completed correctly. Again, the assistance of a specialist company is invaluable and strongly recommended.

To transfer a vehicle registration number, it is necessary for the car from which it is taken and the car to which it is transferred to have current road tax and MOT.

It is, however, possible to purchase personalised number plates even if one does not have a taxed and insured vehicle – or, indeed, a vehicle of any kind! This is achieved using what is called a retention certificate [Show certificate]. Basically, the entitlement to display the number is vested in this certificate, and can be transferred to a car at such later time as one becomes available. The certificate is valid for 12 months and is renewable.


Displaying Number Plates

Vehicle registrations in the UK are displayed on acrylic plastic plates. Nearly everything aboutnumber plates is specified in regulations and standards, as is explained on our number plates information page, and the regulations are now enforced quite strictly. It is, therefore, recommended that no attempt is made to display a registration on non-standard number plates. The size, colour and reflectivity of plates have to meet regulation specs, as do the font style, size and spacing. The only additional decorations permitted are a coloured border and/or a blue panel bearing one of the British national emblems or the Euro Stars emblem.


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