A Guide to Personalised Number Plates

If you’ve always wanted a personalised licence plate, here’s a handy guide to what you need to know and do to make sure your new plate (and the car it goes on) is legal.

Since the early 1960s licence registration in the UK has come in three styles:

  • Suffix (1963 – 1983): where the single letter at the end identified the age of the vehicle
  • Prefix (1983 – 2001): where the age was identified by the single letter at the start of the plate
  • Current Style (since September 2001): where the two numbers in the middle identify the age

The DVLA began holding back licence plate numbers that had individual appeal in 1983 and then began selling them in 1989.

Registration plate styles, suffix prefix and current style number plate infographic
Image credit: Plate-Trader.com


There are lots of registration number auction websites out there, and the DVLA itself has over 45 million for sale and runs its own auctions for the more highly sought after. Once you buy a registration number, you’ll get a Certificate of Entitlement (V750), which you fill in and return to the DVLA to assign the number to a vehicle.

You’ll then need to purchase the new plates from a registered number plate supplier (and only a registered number plate supplier), who will ensure they are made to the correct legal standard, including colours, sizes and backgrounds.


If you’re buying a personalised licence registration, the first thing you need to know is that you can only put a number on a vehicle of equal age or newer to that of the age identifier. For example, this means if you wanted to buy ‘DE11 BOY’, you can only put it on a car made in March 2011 or after.

When creating your own number plate, you’ll need to abide by UK standards and ensure your new reg:

  • Is made from a reflective material
  • Displays black characters on a white background (front plate)
  • Displays black characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
  • Does not have a background pattern
  • Is marked to show who supplied the number plate
  • Is marked with a British Standard number – this is ‘BS AU 145e’ for plates fitted after 1st September 2021

Likewise, the characters must not be removable or reflective. If your number plates were fitted after 1st September 2021, they must also be a single shade of black.

Your registration plates can also still use 3D raised characters, add borders, display flags and show a green flash symbol to mark a zero-emission vehicle.

Remember, if you have a British flag on your plate, you’ll still need to use a GB sticker when driving outside of the UK.


Your personalised number plate is a one-time payment. This means that, as long as the number plate is on the vehicle it’s registered to, you won’t need to pay any annual charges to keep it there.


Having a private plate shouldn’t affect your car insurance premium, although this depends on your insurance provider. Remember, the DVLA will not automatically inform your insurer about changes to your registration: that’s your job.

It’s extremely important that you tell your insurance provider about your new registration plate so that you’re covered on the new number if the police check or if ANPR is used anywhere. You can get a fine of up to £1,000 for having incorrect plates, and it could also result in your vehicle failing its next MOT.


The priciest personalised plate ever sold by the DVLA is ’25 O’, bought by Ferrari dealer John Collins in 2014 for £518,000. The plate is now thought to be attached to a Ferrari 250SWB once owned by Eric Clapton, which is worth around £10 million.

The most expensive number plate in the world was bought in Abu Dhabi for £7.5 million by Saeed Khouri at a charity auction. It simply reads: 1.

For you Only Fools and Horses fans, that ‘DE11 BOY’ plate mentioned above sold for £35,000 to Chris Dawson, owner of The Range discount store chain.


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