How to buy and fit personalised number plates

If you’re considering buying yourself a personalised plate, the thought of it can be a little daunting. I’ve just done it for the first time and can confirm that it’s not as difficult as it may first seem. However, I did come across a lot of things that aren’t immediately answered.

So, in his post I’ll go through what I found – hopefully it will help someone else!

Buying a personalised plate

The DVLA has a specific site to search and purchase personalised plates – There are 3 formats that you can buy…

  1. AB18 ABC
  2. A1 ABC
  3. ABC 123

The latter two aren’t the current format for number plates and are purchased from auction. I can see past auction prices up to £58k, and I’m sure more.

The first format plates are available to buy outright, no bidding required. Most are £399, but some will go much higher. Just bear in mind that these plates are year specific and you can’t fit them onto a car that would make it newer than it is. Older, yes, but not newer.

Buy your place and, well, that’s it. It gets added to your list purchases, in the way you might collect Pokemon cards (I really have no idea how many they expect me to buy, but I’m guessing some people buy multiple!). You have 10 years to make use of any registrations that you buy, but can swap them about on a car however you want.

In the proceeding days, you should receive a a V750 (certificate of entitlement) document in the post. It took just a few days for mine to come through. You’ll need this before you can have the plate made up.

Having the plate made

Oddly, this was the hardest part of it all. The DVLA provide a lookup to tell you who, close to you, will make plates for you. Except.. well… it’s a bit rubbish.

Two issues with what they give you…

  1. Many on the list don’t make them. They maybe did in the past, but many are garages that, due to spiralling prices to provide the service, have stopped but still, sometimes, use a third party to provide them when they need them. I was told that they still need to be on the DVLA list to even do this. As a rule, they’ll just tell you who their supplier is and you can maybe go directly to them.
  2. The list doesn’t tell you what TYPE of number plate they make. It’s all good listing motorcycle dealerships, but guess what type they make? Let’s just say, they won’t fit on my car.

I ended up doing what I mentioned in the first one, and going to the supplier of one of the listed providers. The place was not much more than a giant, un-clean shed, stacked with over-sized barrels of various explosive chemicals, but they did make them.

You’ll need your V750 document and your photo driving license. You have options of having it plain, with a border or with a GB badge on it. I went with plain and it was a little under £30 for the two plates. It was all made within a matter of minutes.

Transferring and fitting

The problem with the next stage is that they advise..

Be ready to put new number plates on the vehicle as soon as you’ve applied.

So, if you choose the easy route of transferring over the plates for your car online, does that mean you have to fit them yourself?

You must put new number plates on the vehicle before you drive it.

Ah. So, yes. If this isn’t something you’re not up for doing yourself, I’m not sure how this is managed. Take it a garage, go home, do the transfer, ring them up and tell them they can NOW change them over? Not sure.

If you do it through the post, rather than online, then that first statement suggests you’re able to make the transfer once it’s in the post, so maybe that’s the answer to “what if I can’t do it myself”.

In the proceeding days you’ll get a new V5 document reflecting the new registration for your car. You can use this instead of the V750 in future if you need to make any more plates.

Fitting the Plates

In my case, I decided to fit them myself. My current plates are screwed on, so need holes in the new plates. Are they all in a standard position? It turns out not, so it’s something I have to do. Here’s what I was told I had to do…

  • Unscrew the old plates
  • Put the new ones underneath and mark on the back of them where the holes are (in other words, poke a pencil through the existing holes so that it leaves a mark on the new ones).
  • Now, carefully (and slowly) drill holes through the new plates, from the rear of them. I was told to do it this way – if you drill from the front, it can force the layers to separate. You’ll need to use a drill bit dependant on the screw size for your car.
  • Screw the new plates onto the car

However, there is an alternative, no screwing required. You can buy plastic surrounds which screw onto the car via one of a number of pre-drilled holes in the back of it. The number plate then slides into this, held securely in place. You can buy them from £10 – £20.

If your original plates are stuck on then this is a lot easier, as you can get replacement sticky pads from Halfords, Charlie Browns, or wherever.

I tried the surround method but found that, despite so many holes in the surround, none were suitable for the rear of a Ford Puma – it was either off-centre or so high up that the number plate was (probably illegally) obscured. I sent them back and used the “screw a hole through the number plates” method.

It went… okayish. I don’t have specific drill bits for plastic so used others which were hit and miss. One of the holes didn’t go great but 95% of the mess is covered by the screw. Otherwise, it was a pretty easy process.

Later I found out that Ford do some surrounds themselves, specifically for my car – next time that’s what I’ll use!

Transferring the number with DVLA

Now the plates are fitted you need to let the DVLA know, which you can do via their website. You need to know your old registration, new one and have various pieces of information that are on your V750. Basically, if you have this document, you shouldn’t have a problem. It was quick and easy.

Interestingly, the wording on this site suggests that transferring the plates after this isn’t a “you must do it NOW” kind of thing, which was odd. Anyway…

Just one more thing…

One thing I did forget about but, thanks to the DVLA website, they reminded me… insurance. You’ll need to ring your insurance company and update your registration on your policy. In my cast it cost me a £5.50 admin fee.

Final thoughts

So, a pretty pain free experience in the end. The big unanswered question, though, is around the plate fitting/transfer urgency and when each can be done. It feels like you’re expected to do the fitting yourself as you need to immediately make the transfer before you can, legally, drive the car again. But I’m still not sure – some better, more explicit, instructions from the DVLA would have been useful.

And I still have questions, none of which I’ve yet found answers to. For example…

  • What do I do when it comes to selling my car? Put the old plates back on and transfer the old number back before selling?
  • Will anyone with details of my previous number plate be aware of the change (e.g. the car dealership)?

And I’m sure there are more that will come to me in time too. If I find answers, of course, I’ll update this post.

Talk to me!

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