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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 FROM a vehicle (or retaining from)

If you are the registered keeper of a vehicle, an application can be made to transfer its registration to another vehicle or to hold it on a retention document (V778) for one, two or three years. You can retain the registration number in your name or nominate someone else.

For a registration mark to qualify for transfer / retention from a vehicle the following must apply:

  • - The vehicle must exist and be registered at either DVLA or the DVLNI.
  • - The vehicle must be available for inspection if required by the DOT.
  • - You have ownership rights to the registration mark.
  • - The registration must be transferable as indicated in the V5C vehicle registration document.
  • - The vehicle must be of a type that is subject to MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) testing.
  • - The vehicle must currently be taxed. However, see concession.
  • - You must not dispose of the vehicle until you received a replacement V5 registration document.

The vehicle must still exist. When a vehicle has been scrapped, its registration number is cancelled and all rights to it will no longer exist, even if you are still in possession of the registration document. Therefore, you must transfer or retain the registration mark before the vehicle is disposed of.

Ownership rights. You must be the registered keeper of the vehicle or have the full consent of the registered keeper.

Transferability. The vehicle’s V5C registration document (log book) specifies whether its registration mark is transferable. Specifically, if it states ‘non-transferable’, then there are no circumstances under which the registration mark can be transferred to another vehicle or retained on a certificate. In addition, you cannot transfer or retain a registration number starting with a ‘Q’ (or ‘NIQ’ for Northern Ireland registered vehicles). Finally, provided the vehicle meets the conditions of transfer, a vehicle assigned a Northern Ireland registration number can be transferred or retained.

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. Refer to the vehicle’s registration document to verify.

Road Tax and MOT requirements. Generally, vehicles must have valid tax (or be tax exempt) and if over three years old, a valid MOT test certificate to be eligible. However, if the donor vehicle’s tax and / or MOT has expired it may still be possible to transfer or retain its registration mark provided, at the time of application, the following conditions apply:

  • The tax expired within six months of the transfer application.
  • You were the registered keeper of the vehicle at the time the tax expired.
  • The tax expired naturally, i.e., you didn’t apply for a refund.
  • The MOT was valid at the time the tax expired.
  • There is no break between the date the tax disc runs out and the start of the SORN.

In all cases you will need to submit the MOT certificate, valid or expired and all vehicles must be clearly identifiable from their chassis numbers.

Note: If the MOT has expired, you can still transfer or retain the registration mark provided the road tax is valid at the time of the transfer application and that you were the registered keeper of the vehicle at the time the MOT expired.

You must not dispose of the vehicle until you have received a replacement V5C. The law states that any new keeper of a vehicle is entitled to keep its registration number should they wish if they were sold the vehicle before the seller receives a replacement V5C vehicle registration document.

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