DVLA online Vehicle Registration Transfer System

In many cases, cars used in Britain have a UK registration plate that goes with them throughout their life; the plate can remain with the vehicle throughout any number of owners and relocations.

However, car owners also have the opportunity to buy personalised number plates, and these can be transferred (as long as they adhere to certain conditions) to any future vehicle they own.

Car owners may choose to use private number plates for a range of reasons:

  • They can be used to disguise or obscure the age of the car (although it is against the rules to use a personalised registration plate to make a car look newer than it is);
  • they can be used to promote a business or brand;
  • they can be bought to simply personalise a car with the owner’s name or hobby;
  • private number plates can be a wise and shrewd investment, gaining in monetary value over time;
  • these plates are also often used to convey status or individuality.

Many owners of vehicles with private registration plates appreciate the history of motoring and want to reflect this, in a visible way, on their car. Those with the oldest kind of registration plates are often the most cherished, as they are a way to demonstrate interest in how cars and registration numbers have changed and developed over the years, and they can be rare.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has central control over all aspects of registration plate business, whether that is issuing new registration documents to new car owners or transferring cherished number plates to a new vehicle.

The DVLA also sells private number plates to individuals and companies, but only new ones. Older, cherished registration plates are mainly sold privately or through companies such as ours. However, when new registration plates are issued, the DVLA now identifies those that might hold some value to buyers and auctions them off. This raises funds for the treasury, as well as giving people the opportunity to get access to brand new plates that have never been seen before.

If you already own a private number plate and are buying a new car, or if you are buying a new private number plate, you will need to transfer the private registration number to the car it will be used on. This is important for legal purposes and to ensure your car insurance is valid. Driving without the correct registration plates is a serious matter, so this transfer is a very important process for any owner of personalised number plates to go through.

Earlier this year, the DVLA made the process of transferring private number plates quicker, much simpler, and more streamlined.

Once you have bought your registration number, you need to assign it to your vehicle. Then, if the plates do not yet exist, they can be made up.


The process can be carried out by post, but the DVLA now offers an online service that provides instant confirmation that the registration transfer has been carried out successfully. It is quick and efficient and can be used by both companies and individuals.


To take a registration number off a vehicle, perhaps to hold onto it while it is not in use, their Retain Service is available online. The cost of this has been reduced from £105 to £80, and it now remains valid for 10 years.

In order to complete this process online, the DVLA explains that you will need “the 11 digit document reference number from the latest V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook) and a valid credit or debit card”.

The vehicle has to be registered with the DVLA, it must be either taxed or have a statutory off road notification (SORN), and it must be available for inspection. When this process has been completed, you will receive a new V5C certificate for your vehicle.

The annual £25 fee has been removed entirely, and nominee details can be added or changed free of charge. The certificate can later be renewed for a further 10 years.

Only a vehicle’s registered keeper is allowed to apply to retain a registration number. That person can choose to become the Grantee (the person who has the right to the registration number) and they can assign somebody as a Nominee (the person whose vehicle the registration number is going to be assigned to). It is the Grantee who receives the Retention Document (V778).

The next step is to transfer the registration number (to another vehicle) or to retain it, which removes it from its association with a vehicle and allows you to keep it until you are ready to assign it to a new one.

Transferring a registration number is applicable in three cases:

  • transferring your registration number to another vehicle you already own
  • transferring the registration number to a vehicle you are purchasing
  • transferring the registration number to somebody else’s vehicle.

This can all be handled by the DVLA’s online service, “Put a registration number on a vehicle”, and there are certain key rules that apply:

  • registration plates that begin with Q or NIQ cannot be transferred to another car
  • registration plates that make the car look newer than it is are not allowed
  • both vehicles (the cars the plate is being transferred from and to) must
    • be available for inspection
    • be registered with the DVLA
    • need an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test certificate
    • be currently taxed (unless the car that currently has the registration plate has run out of tax in the last 12 months and the SORN period started straight away).

To complete the transfer of private registration numbers online, you will need your V5C 11-digit reference number, and the fee for the service is £80.

This new system significantly speeds up the process of being able to apply a new number plate to a car. Despite only being introduced in March 2015, the DVLA reports that many customers have positive reports of using the online systems for both transfers and retentions.