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Private number plate guides

What is a car registration?

Vehicle registrations are the numbers and letters shown on car number plates.

Just as your name identifies you, a car is identified by its registration number. That’s actually quite a useful analogy so let’s stick with it.

If the car registration number is the car’s official “name”, then the acrylic plates that display it are a bit like the name tag your mum used to sew into each of the items of your school uniform.

Car registrations enable DVLA and the police to record and identify vehicles on UK roads. One of the first things the police ask after an accident or a crime involving a vehicle is, “Did you get the registration number?”.

Learn more about registration numbers.

Number plate formats

The UK's number plate scheme was created out of the Motor Car Act 1903.

Over the years formats have been extended and reversed numerous times to cater for not only the number of vehicles but also the increase in identifiers for the growing numbers of towns and cities.

Dateless 1903 - 1962

This format was used from 1904 to 1962

Early number plates were simple; the letter region code and a unique number to identify the vehicle.

Suffix 1963 - 1982

The Suffix format was used from 1963 to 1982

The Suffix format contains the area code (letters), three random numbers and an age identifier.

Prefix 1983 - 2001

The Prefix format was used from 1982 to 2001

The Prefix format contains an age identifier, three random numbers and an area code.

Current 2001 - present

The Infix format is currently in use

The Infix format contains a Local Memory Tag, an age identifier and a series of random letters.

Learn more about registrations and formats

The V5C Document

A photo of DVLA document V5C

The registration number of your vehicle, as shown on it’s number plates, is confirmed on your car’s registration document or V5C - previously referred to as the “log book”. Significant changes to your car and its circumstances will involve this document.

Transferring registrations

Transferring a registration on DVLA's website

Transferring registrations is a surprisingly simple process although there are a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through. There is nothing overly complicated or difficult to understand so you too can learn how to transfer a registration.

Retaining registrations

A photo of DVLA document V778

When you want to keep a vehicle registration number, for example the one on the car you are selling, you can use the DVLA’s retention scheme and obtain a Certificate that is good for ten years. Learn how to retain a number plate.

The role of DVLA

Closeup of DVLA logo

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the agency that deals with most of the bureaucracy surrounding cars and driving. DVLA issues driving licenses and administers penalty points to those licences when offences have been committed. It’s also in charge of the UK’s car registrations.

As well as making the rules that govern car registrations. DVLA issues all new registration numbers. The majority of numbers are issued within the scheduled sequence of registrations. Other numbers, however, have been held back over the years: some for reasons of censorship, and some for commercial reasons. Where DVLA has identified that a certain combination is likely to be attractive to a number of potential buyers, it may offer that car registration for sale at auction. You can find out how DVLA issues registrations and if you are looking for a number plate, read our DVLA Number Plates - Buying and Selling Guide.

Regtransfers is not affiliated with DVLA. DVLA information is offered here because DVLA is the authority that controls almost everything we do as a business.

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The role of DVLA

Car registrations and number plates, including personalised number plates, in the UK, are the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, usually known as the DVLA. It issues new registrations twice a year and also maintains the central database that records details of all vehicles licensed to drive on UK roads, along with their keeper and registration information.

Regtransfers works closely with DVLA to complete registration transfers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Regtransfers is a DVLA-registered supplier of personal car registrations and number plates and is listed on the DVLA Registrations website. All number plates supplied by Regtransfers comply with DVLA's prescribed standards and regulations.

DVLA administers all UK registration transfers and issues updated registration documents when the registration number of a car is changed, or when a registration is removed from a vehicle and placed on a retention document in accordance with the DVLA Retention Scheme.

DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. Regtransfers is not affiliated with the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations. Regtransfers is a recognised reseller of unissued Government stock.

Number plate regulations

When a car is on the road, it is an offence to display number plates bearing any number other than the vehicle's officially recorded registration number. If you purchase a private registration, learn how to transfer private plates before displaying the new number.

All registration number plates displayed on UK vehicles must comply with the official number plate regulations. DVLA oversees enforcement of number plates display regulations and maintains a register of approved manufacturers and retailers of vehicle number plates.

Regtransfers is not part of, and is not formally affiliated with DVLA.

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