UK car number plates have gone through a lot of changes over the decades, and living in the UK, we mostly know these. Those from other countries may find some of it odd. AFAIK places like the US have different systems. In the UK the plate is UK wide, not state wide or county wide, and managed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Normally the plate stays with the car, unchanged, forever. There are regional aspects to some of the lettering used in some cases. So a few points on UK plates generally before we start. There are cases that plates can be re-assigned to new vehicles though...
First off, they are in various fixed formats. Unlike some places where you can have almost any word you like, the UK has some fixed formats, but some of these are quite old and can still be used.
Some really old plates were numbers and/or letters. I don't know the exact formats, but a plate of A1 is still valid, and it's a Black Mini, apparently. Wikipedia has a detailed history (here).
To use an old plate it has to have been transferred from the originally assigned car over time to the car it is on now. They are not issued new. It is possible to assign to a "retention certificate" and then back to a car though, within time limits.
Then we have plates of this format, a three letter code, a number from 1 to 999, and a year letter.
Again, these are not issued new, so only exists if transferred from car to car. I passed my test in that one.
The three letters were partly an area or region. The number was arbitrary.
Then we have more modern plates, which are simply the other way around, year letter, number 1-999, and three letters...
That one is white Porsche. I am not surprised. These can be purchased new still as cherished plates. Many nice ones are up for auction.
At this point, or around then, DVLA started to hold on to numbers 1-20, 100, 200, 300, and 111, 222, 333, an so on, as "special" and sell them separately.
The year letter used to change each year and the motor industry managed to push it forward until it was like August, and then complained that all the sales were in that month for the new plates. The fix was two letters a year, which used them up quickly.
Then we have the current format, which is two letters, two digits year code, and three letters. The year is last two digits of year or that plus 50, so two changes of year code a year... E.g. this is 2017.
This was, until a few days ago, a Tesla...
By the way, the font, size, colour, and spacing is now strictly controlled, which never used to be the case, and some really old cars are still allowed to show plates in the old format. There days, front plates are black on white and rear are black on yellow.
So, with this latest format, it is quite hard to make a plate look "custom". Not all letters are allowed. Only year codes that exist so far and that are older or same age as the car, are allowed. So limited. If you can spell something, that is likely a reserved and very expensive plate.
So I went for something simpler for James's Tesla. This is not his plate, but same idea. Why not make something that looks uncommon / unusual and even better if it has some meaning. E.g.
Sadly they don't do "OOO" as the letter codes, and the space is required, but this is "8" in binary, which is what the "B" means. There are actually several ways you could make a plate of this sort of style, and the number of "O"'s and "I"s in it make it look "special" I think. Am I wrong. Does this look like any random plate or something special? That plate is actually still available for £499 if you want it, James has something similar. I think we have achieved the "special" and "obviously custom" with this plate. I hope so.
Now, when James got the paperwork, I blogged how silly it was as he assigned it on line. What was amusing is they sent a PDF with a background image as a certificate to take to the place making the plates. They need this else they could be in trouble.
The issue is that it is just a PDF, could easily be edited to any plate you want.
Also, for no good reason, it had to be used within 3 working days and no duplicates would be issued?!?! Again you could edit the date. But I assume they feel that within 3 working days you'll have a new V5 that you can use to get a new plate anyway.
But go on-line and you can order any plate, valid or not, in a matter of days for the same price as
I did suggest he had them fit the plate, if only to fuck with the car parking at The Point, in Bracknell, which is all ANPR based there, free for 2 hours. He would arrive with one plate and leave with another, and when he gets a parking fine he has every valid reason to dispute it. He was not that "adventurous" sadly.
Sadly the plastic plates were too thick to fit on the Tesla, so some embossed metal plates are on the way, from the Internet, without seeing the fancy PDF certificate!
OK there are a huge number of issues with "cherished" plates in UK, and my last blog highlighted these a lot. The biggest issue is around the logical "ownership" of a plate. (some of these taken from anonymous poster on my blog).
- If you buy a plate that is not currently on a vehicle and is held only on a retention certificate then DVLA will not change the name of the owner of the plate. The certificate will still be in the seller's name and you as buyer will just be listed as someone who CAN put it on to a vehicle, but not someone who owns it. Years later, thinking you own the plate, you could go to put it on a vehicle and find that the previous owner re-sold it and DVLA allowed this as you had not yet exercised your right to put it on a vehicle so DVLA still had it down as owned by the person who sold it to you years before.
- If you want to eliminate that risk then the only way to get your name listed on the DVLA paperwork as the plate owner is to put the plate onto a car and then immediately take it off again whilst specifying on the "take it off again" form who the new plate owner should be. DVLA will then issue a retention certificate in your own name. If neither the seller nor buyer of the plate have such a vehicle available then changing the name of the plate owner can't be done
- If you put your own plate onto someone else's car (employer's company car / boyfriend's car, etc.) then DVLA consider that the registered keeper of that car now owns that plate and you as true owner lose all rights to that plate from that moment on. DVLA will allow the employer/boyfriend to sell that plate without any reference to you. Never put a plate on a vehicle unless you are the registered keeper of that vehicle.
- If your car is written off, your insurer will be wise to this and will try to steal the plate using this method as soon as they become the registered keeper - get the plate taken off the car before the agreement to settle the claim and write off is made and before you sign over the car (or it's remains) to the insurer
- You cannot apply a plate to be assigned to a car that has had any break in vehicle tax or SORN in last five years? The issue is that if you buy a car, how do you know that? It is not, AFAIK, on the paperwork, and also not your fault so why are you penalised by not being allowed to apply your plate to your new car exactly? Indeed, DVLA site says that you need 5 years unbroken tax/SORN so implies cars under 5 years old cannot get a new plate - thankfully the DVLA web site lies on this point. James has his plate assigned to a new(ish) car.
- If it is deemed that you misrepresented the plate (incorrect font, size, spacing, etc) you can lose it!
- Occasionally insurance companies (and ANPR based carparks) get confused by a change of plate. It was even suggested insurance companies may charge for change of plate, which is odd, as surely it is a matter of fact of which you are obliged to notify them and under data protection law they are obliged to record a change (for free).
So basically, a mess. A proper "entitlement" to a plate would be a good thing to be able to record and allow to be transferred. It is quite strange that we have this mess.
So there you have it, UK plates, pitfalls and issues...