Some people find the idea of putting a private registration number on a car their own outright daunting enough, but what about putting a private plate on a car that’s on some sort of finance? You could be forgiven for assuming you couldn’t put your private plate on a vehicle you don’t actually own, but you’ll realise that isn’t the case when you find out just how many vehicles on UK roads are actually on finance and not owned outright.

How many vehicles on UK roads are bought on finance?

car finance 1

When I was selling cars for a living you’d think almost every car on the road must have been bought with cash, at least you would do if you believed what customers told you on a daily basis. I’d say that at least nine out of every ten customers would say they were a ‘cash buyer’ and not interested in finance.

However, back in 2017, it was reported by Reuters that some 86.5 percent of all new private cars were bought using finance that had been supplied by lenders who were members of the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA), which was an increase over the previous year’s figure of 82.7 percent.

So, if the best part of 90% of all private new cars on UK roads were bought using finance it stands to reason that a decent number of cars on the road with private plates will also have been bought on some sort of finance.

Finance and ownership

There are several different types of finance products used here in the UK for funding vehicle purchases, but what they all have in common is the buyer doesn’t own the vehicle until any finance attached to it has been paid off. Even if you only have a few hundred pounds outstanding on your finance deal you don’t own your vehicle outright.

It doesn’t matter whether you took out a hire purchase, PCP or a balloon hire purchase agreement, the finance company is technically the owner until all outstanding payments have been made. And if you lease a new car, which is the way I pay for my new cars, you never own the vehicle and you hand it back to the leasing company once your final payment has been made.

The big difference between leasing and other finance agreements that affects private plates is you don’t get a V5C document (log book) for the vehicle if you lease it. Even though the finance company ‘owns’ the car if you buy on HP or PCP until you pay it off, you still get the V5C and that makes putting a private plate on it simple.

Leasing is completely different, however, but you can still put your private plate on a car you’re leasing. The process isn’t as quick, easy and convenient as it is if you have the car’s V5C, but it’s probably not as daunting as you might imagine.

Assigning a private plate to a lease car

Unfortunately, when you lease a car you have to rely on the leasing company if you want to assign your private registration number to the car you’re leasing. With other forms of finance, you just go online and assign your number to the vehicle using the details on your Certificate of Entitlement (V750) or Retention Document (V778) and your V5C.

To put your private plate onto your lease car you have to find out from your leasing company what their procedure is and what the terms and conditions are. The terms and conditions will include some important timings you have to adhere to, such as how long you have to wait after taking out the lease before they will allow your number to be assigned to the vehicle. Another important condition is how long before your lease comes to an end you have to start the process of putting your plate on retention or transferring it to another vehicle so you don’t lose it.

You must remember that if you don’t go through the process of removing your number before your lease comes to an end you’re in danger of losing your private reg number. I’m not saying leasing companies want to take your plate, but they’re certainly not averse to charging you some pretty hefty sums of money for anything out of the ordinary if you don’t stick carefully to the rules.

lease car with private plate

I know all this because I’m currently going through the process of leasing a new vehicle, and because it’s a pre-registered car and the registration number is going to change in a few weeks, I’ve bought a private number for myself for the very first time.

In the terms and conditions from my leasing company regarding personalised number plates, it states, “The vehicle you are assigning your Personalised Number Plate to, is the property of (Leasing Company) and the vehicle is registered through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in our name. Therefore, under the rules of the DVLA, the Personalised Number Plate becomes our property until the Personalised Number Plate is correctly assigned back to you.”

It later goes on to say, “It is your responsibility to contact (Leasing Company) at least 6 weeks prior to the end of your contract with us to remove the Personalised Number Plate from our vehicle. Any additional costs incurred in rentals will be your responsibility until the registration mark is removed and the vehicle returned.”

Basically, all you have to do is follow the rules of your particular leasing company and they will do the assigning and then the retention of the plate for you. You must be careful with the timing when it comes to putting the physical plates on your vehicle. The last thing you want to happen is to be involved in some sort of incident such as speeding or an accident and the police find you have the wrong number plates on. As soon as the leasing company informs you they’ve done the transfer, get your plates changed before you drive the vehicle on the road again. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.