Quick Guide to Buying and Selling Private Number Plates

If you think it will be too much hassle and too time-consuming to buy a private registration number and get it onto your vehicle you couldn’t be more wrong. Buying and even selling a private plate couldn’t be easier, but I will admit that certainly wasn’t always this way.

20211102 122655

I’ve had times when just getting a private plate onto a customer’s car meant a 60-mile round trip to an authorised post office to do the paperwork, and I’ve even had the transfer denied because the customer signed the documents in the wrong colour ink! Nowadays, ink doesn’t even have to be involved and those long drives to a DVLA authorised post office are now a thing of the past.

If you haven’t had a private number plate before and you like the idea, or if you fancy buying one as a gift for someone else, here’s a quick guide to how easy the whole process now is.

Where do you buy a private number plate from?

There are three main places you can buy a private registration number from, which are the DVLA, registration number dealers, and private individuals. Regardless of where you buy from if you’ve never been through the process before you’ll be amazed at how easy it is and you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t done it before now.


The DVLA doesn’t buy and sell private registration numbers that have previously been issued but it does offer for sale the numbers it has from the current and previous numbering systems that have not been issued in the past. Some of these will have been held back by the DVLA because they are considered desirable and they can be sold for a premium price, but others have just never been used before.

The DVLA website has a search function so you can put in letters or numbers you want and it will bring up what’s available that matches your search, and prices range from a couple of hundred pounds to many thousands of pounds in some cases.

20211102 113930

A lot of numbers are available for a fixed price but the DVLA also runs auctions throughout the year, and these are where numbers are offered from a low starting price, and buyers bid as much as they are prepared to pay. These are timed auctions, and when the deadline arrives the highest bidder gets the number.


Dealers offer buyers the best of both worlds. Most will have access to all those unissued DVLA numbers through a link to the DVLA system, but dealers also buy and sell numbers that have previously been issued. Of course, a number that has been bought and paid for before will probably be more desirable than one of the numbers you can get for a couple of hundred quid that just hides the age of your vehicle.

You will be able to search the dealer’s inventory online for the number you want, but just because they don’t have it doesn’t mean that number isn’t for sale somewhere else.

Private sellers

You don’t have to use a dealer or the DVLA to buy or sell a registration number. You might be able to negotiate a good deal from someone selling their number privately on eBay or somewhere similar, but you have to be careful about not giving out details from your registration document before the transaction is complete. I’m not saying everyone selling privately online is out to rip you off, but buying or selling privately can increase the risk compared to using a dealer or going direct to the DVLA.

The buying process

To buy a private registration number you don’t need a car to put it on and you don’t even need to be a driver. Anyone can buy a number and it doesn’t have to be allocated to a car for 10 years. Even if you keep the plate on retention and not on a vehicle for close to that time, you can even apply to get it extended for a further 10-year period.

Buying a private registration number takes a couple of minutes online. You choose the number you want to buy, put it in your cart, and then you pay the fee. It really is as simple as that. You’ll get a confirmation email with details of your purchase, and literally as soon as you’ve bought it you can allocate it to a vehicle online.

20211102 113859

All you need to allocate your new registration number to your vehicle is your V5C. You go online to the DVLA website and allocate your new number to your vehicle using the details from your retention certificate and your V5C. As soon as you have completed the process the number is now allocated to your vehicle, so all you have to do is fit physical plates with your new number on them onto your vehicle.

It’s hard for someone like me to believe that buying and fitting the actual physical number plates is now a lot more hassle than buying, selling or transferring the registration number.

Selling a private plate

The DVLA won’t buy a registration number from you but any dealer will and you can always sell your plate yourself by advertising anywhere you like. Selling to a dealer is probably the best bet. It’s safer than trying to complete the whole process yourself with a private buyer, especially if you are looking to do a transfer from your vehicle to theirs.

You can even negotiate with a dealer on the price you want, and if they are not offering you as much as you think your number is worth you can always go and try your luck with other online dealers. After all, there’s no set price for a private registration number and any number is worth as much as someone is prepared to pay for it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *