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Number Plate Law

Rules for the transfer, assignment and retention of UK registration number plates

See also: Law and guidance for the display of UK Number Plates

Familiarise yourself with the government's protocols for the transferring of UK registration numbers and physical display of the actual number plates.

The transfer and retention law is broken up into the following sections below. Please take your time to read through. If you are unclear with or have any queries relating to the law of registration number plates please get in touch with us via our dedicated contact page or email us at contact@platemaster.com It will be a pleasure to help you.

Transferring a registration number TO a vehicle (or assigning to)

Subject to certain conditions, an application can be made to transfer a registration number to your vehicle, to a vehicle you are buying, or to someone else’s vehicle. Specifically, a registration number can be transferred to a vehicle, provided the vehicle:

  • - is not made to appear younger – see Year restrictions
  • - does not have a registration starting with ‘Q’ (‘NIQ’ for Northern Ireland registered vehicles)
  • - is registered at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • - is available for inspection
  • - is of a type that needs an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test certificate
  • - has current road tax
Year letterYear Year letterYear
A Aug 1983 51 Sep 2001
B Aug 1984 02 Mar 2002
C Aug 1985 52 Sep 2002
D Aug 1986 03 Mar 2003
E Aug 1987 53 Sep 2003
F Aug 1988 04 Mar 2004
G Aug 1989 54 Sep 2004
H Aug 1990 05 Mar 2005
J Aug 1991 55 Sep 2005
K Aug 1992 06 Mar 2006
L Aug 1993 56 Sep 2006
M Aug 1994 07 Mar 2007
N Aug 1995 57 Sep 2007
P Aug 1996 08 Mar 2008
R Aug 1997 58 Sep 2008
S Aug 1998 09 Mar 2009
T Mar 1999 59 Sep 2009
V Sep 1999 10 Mar 2010
W Mar 2000 60 Sep 2010
X Sep 2000 11 Mar 2011
Y Mar 2001 61 Sep 2011
12 Mar 2012

Year restrictions. The law is straightforward regarding restrictions on the assignment of age related registration marks. You may not transfer a registration mark associated with a younger year than that of the recipient vehicle. Essentially, you cannot make a vehicle appear newer by assigning a registration mark.

The age of a vehicle is not necessarily indicated by its number plate. The ‘first registered’ date, stated on a vehicle’s V5 registration document, signifies its true age. Refer to this and not the registration plate the vehicle currently bears since it may be displaying a number plate other than the one it was assigned at first registration (it may now carry a personalised plate).

With the exception of the dateless range, this rule applies to all styles of registration marks. For instance, you cannot put a T prefix plate (for example, T123 ABC) onto a vehicle that originally carried an S prefix registration (for example, S123 ABC). However, you could assign S123 ABC to a T registered vehicle.

Similarly, you may not assign D12 SUE (1986) to vehicle that was originally registered with ABC 2Y (1982) but you can assign Y2 SUE (March 2001) to AB55 CDE (September 2005). Dateless registration numbers, for example 44 AJ and AB 2 can be transferred to a vehicle of any age, since they do not relate to any year.

Please refer to the reg year table to see which year letter corresponds to a given year for prefix style and current style number plates.

The vehicle is subject to MOT or HGV testing. Not all vehicles are required to undergo an annual test for roadworthiness, for example agricultural vehicles, steamrollers and milk floats. Consequently, such vehicles do not qualify for the transfer or retention scheme. Check the vehicle’s registration document.

Vehicles with non-transferable marks. The vehicle’s V5 registration document (log book) indicates the transferability of its currently assigned registration mark. Where it specifies ‘non-transferable’, the vehicle may still be able to receive a cherished registration number provided the vehicle meets the normal requirements of the government’s Transfer and Retention Scheme. However, it may be worth having the DVLA verify the vehicle’s eligibility to receive a cherished registration mark.

Note that under the DVLA’s Transfer and Retention Scheme, a non-transferable registration number cannot be transferred or retained before or during the transfer of a new registration number to the vehicle.

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