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How Do Number Plates Work

December, 21 2015


In our personal experience one of the biggest barriers to buying a personal number plate is a lack of understanding in what they are and how they work.

You can literally write a book trying to answer this question – in fact a few people have – but here I will try to answer the most frequently asked questions.

What are number plates?

iwanthomas1 Number plates exist in most countries around the world and all use them exactly the same way: for identification purposes. Each vehicle has its own unique number and this is used to tell it apart from other vehicles.

How do number plates work?

Unless you have a private registration, you can use the characters on a number plate to identify not only the age of the vehicle but also where it was first registered.

Even with private registrations though all number plates are entered into a country-wide database ran by DVLA that connects the plates to the vehicle and the vehicle’s owner. Basically, if CCTV records your number plate it has recorded you as well.

How do you change a number plate?

DVLA allows drivers to buy and sell the rights to display a number plate. This is what we call personalised number plates or private number plates.

All you need to do to change a number plate is to simply buy the rights to display that specific registration and apply for the DVLA to change their database accordingly.

How to choose a new number plate?

The easiest way is to pick from a list of what is currently for sale. National Numbers provides an extensive range of options for you to filter the list down to the ones you would be interested in.

However, if you are more creatively minded you can see our previous guides on number plate formats and come up with your own combination. If you bring this to National Numbers we can see if we can find it for you.

How long does it take to change a number plate?

The private number plate market is not a huge priority for the DVLA so there is no way currently to instantly buy and transfer a number plate. You will usually have to make sure other documents are dealt with before a transfer is complete.

Generally changing your number plate will take between 5 days and 5 weeks, though it can be longer depending on your circumstances.

How to sell a number plate?

There are various requirements you must fill to be able to sell a number plate but once these are met you can sell the number plate privately, or National Numbers can list it for sale for you and will come to you will any interested.

If you have any more questions that have not been covered, call us on 01642 363738 or leave a comment below.

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