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This article was last updated on 1 August 2022 

Retain a number plate In 2022

This article will show you how to retain a private number plate to keep for yourself, transfer to a new car, or re-sell. This process is particularly essential for personalised number plates. Thankfully, to put a number plate on retention is a simple process. 

How to retain a number plate

Sometimes you may want to keep your personal registration number but don’t have a new car to put it on. Maybe you’ve sold your car or maybe you’ve bought a new private number but want to keep your old one. Whatever the reason, putting a number plate on retention until it is needed is a useful option to have. Fortunately, DVLA, the UK’s vehicle licensing agency, provides an online service with and a postal service with their number plate retention scheme.

In order to retain a personalised registration, the DVLA must be notified of this desire within 30 days of its initial registration or purchase. You can notify the DVLA online at their website. Once you do this, the number plate will be removed from your vehicle straight away and returned to your name for future use on a new vehicle. This allows you to save money by buying a used car outright with a personalised number plate attached to it rather than spending thousands of pounds on one before it goes into circulation. There is no fee for retaining private plates; you only need to pay standard road tax (vehicle excise duty) annually based on how much CO2 emissions your vehicle emits

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Take a private number plate off a vehicle

You can apply to take a private number plate from your vehicle if you choose to either: remove a private registration number from a car for later use, assign it to another vehicle, or preserve it. For any of these options you should put a number plate on retention. 

You can’t keep a number that begins with “Q” or “NIQ.” When you take off a private number, the original registration number of the vehicle is usually reassigned to it automatically. If your application is granted, you’ll receive a V778 retention document as well as a new logbook (V5C). Before scrapping or selling your car, make sure you have your V778 and new log book; otherwise, you will lose the right to use the private plate.

Conditions for retaining a number plate

To put a plate on retention, the car must be:

  • DVLA registered
  • available for an inspection
  • a type that requires an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test certificate and must function properly
  • be taxed or have been taxed within the last 5 years
  • If not taxed, an SORN (statutory off-road notification) must be in place continuously from the expiry date.

What documents do I need to retain a private number plate?

You will need the V5C (logbook) for the car. If you are applying online you will need the 11 digit Document Reference Number (found on the first page).

Taxing the vehicle at the same time as retaining a number plate

If the old or new vehicle needs to be taxed you must include the following with your application(s):

  • V10 Form (application for vehicle tax)
  • the final payment of tax on the vehicle
  • MOT certificate and function properly 

Apply to take off a number plate

You can submit an application online or by post. It costs £80 to complete the process. You must provide a copy of the vehicle’s logbook (V5C). If the vehicle is not in your name, you must apply by post.

The Retention Document V

When you apply, you will be sent a Retention Document. It is valid for 10 years and can be renewed. If you got your registration prior to 2015, you must renew more frequently (this will be indicated on your V750 or V778 documents).

What to do if I am applying to retain a number plate online?

If applying online, go to the DVLA registrations website and follow the instructions. The service is available from 07:00 to 19:00. Remember that the registration will be removed from circulation right away.

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Applying put a number plate on retention online

To apply online you will need to have your V5C Registration Document at hand and pay the £80 DVLA transfer fee. As soon as you have completed your initial online application and payment, the registration number will be removed from your car. This may not be the case if the DVLA deem it fit to inspect your vehicle in-person beforehand.

The DVLA will then send you a Retention Document and a V5C. Wait for your V778 retention document and your new, updated V5C to arrive.

Once you’ve completed retention you must not display the number on your vehicle. You should display the replacement V5C document you have been issued with which shows that registration number that has been assigned to your new, different vehicle as opposed to your old one.

Applying to put a number plate on retention by post

Download the V317 form from the DVLA website.

On page 1 of the form, tick the box to say that you want to remove the number from a vehicle and keep it on a retention document.

Fill in part 7 of the form (located on page 2) with your car details and a contact phone number. The car details are found in your V5C registration document or logbook.

Only complete part 9 of the form if there is a change of ownership of the number plate.

Only complete part 10 of the form if a car dealer is acting on your behalf and you wish them to receive all relevant correspondence and documentation.

Send the completed V317 form and all other required items to DVLA at the address on the form.

To recap, you must send:

  • The V317 form
  • V5C vehicle registration document
  • The retention fee of £80

Wait for the arrival of your V778 retention document and updated V5C.

If the number you are retaining was a private or personalised number plate then DVLA replacement registration will be the registration the car was originally issued with. 

How long does it take to retain a number plate?

Your existing registration will usually be removed as soon as you make an online application. If you are applying by post, the registration will be removed within a period of two weeks. You will have to wait for your V778 Retention Document, MOT certificate, and a new V5C to be sent to you. The new V5C may take up to six weeks to arrive.

The V778 gives you rights to the number plate for 10 years and you will receive a reminder before its expiry. You will be the registered keeper of the plate until the expiry date. This must be renewed after 10 years if you wish to continue retaining your number plate past then. It is important that you do not want to sell or otherwise dispose of your car until you get your V778 as this could result in you losing the right to your number plate.

Who to tell about your new registration number

If you have updated your registration details, you must update the number for any existing vehicle-related direct debits, such as the:

  • Congestion Charge
  • Low Emission Zone Charge
  • Ultra Low Emission Zone Charge
  • Dart Charge
  • and any other charges for driving in Clean Air Zones

If you enter one of these zones without having updated your registration details, you may be liable to pay a penalty charge.

You must also inform the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation scheme if your vehicle has a certification.

It is also crucial that you inform your insurance company. 

Selling a private number

Now that you have retained your number plate, you have the option to sell your number plate. If you have personalised plates, this could be a lucrative decision as certain combinations of numbers, letters, or phrases can sometimes fetch tidy sums. There is a whole market for personalised registrations online and in newspapers and magazines devoted to this trade.

However, if you are selling your number plate, make sure not to share a scan, photograph or any other image of your V778 or any other documents as someone other than a prospective number could use it to put your private number on another vehicle without payment or your permission.

Transferring your number plate to a new car

Retaining your number plate through gaining a Retention Document is most useful for when you aim to sell your personalised plate or just keep hold of them. Often this might be because you have not yet found a new car and you want to transfer your number plate to it in the near future. However, if you already have a different car that you want to transfer your personalised registration to you do not need to retain your private plates but can do this through filling a V317 form. But first, the following conditions must be met:

  • The DVLA has to have a record of the car. I.e. it must exist!
  • Has to be able to move from its own power. 
  • The vehicle must be available for inspection by the DVLA.
  • The car must function properly/pass an MOT
  • The registration you are adding must not make the vehicle appear younger than it is, meaning you can’t put private plates from a specific year on a car built before the year in question. This is to stop unscrupulous used car dealers from making a quick buck by fitting newer plates to old cars to make them look newer.. This is common considering the vast rate of depreciation on cars.

If these are met you can fill in form V317 with the details of the car you want to remove the plate from, add your contact details and fill in the details of the vehicle you want to put the registration on. You will need the V5C documents for both vehicles, but the new car can even be in someone else’s name.

We hope that this article has shown that number plate retention is a simple process!

Meet the author

Hayley Kenyon

Hayley Kenyon

Hayley is responsible for writing content on the site as well as managing the social media channels. She has a degree in Art and Humanities. Hayley has been reviewing and writing on products for a number of years and uses her experience to recommend the best products.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to retain a number plate?

Sometimes you may want to keep your personal registration number but don’t have a new car to put it on.

What documents do I need to retain a private number plate?

You will need the V5C (logbook) for the car. If you are applying online you will need the 11 digit Document Reference Number (found on the first page).

How long does it take to retain a number plate?

Your existing registration will usually be removed as soon as you make an online application. If you are applying by post, the registration will be removed within a period of two weeks.

Applying put a number plate on retention online

To apply online you will need to have your V5C Registration Document at hand and pay the £80 DVLA transfer fee.

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