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When it comes to number plates, getting personal could cost you dear if your vehicle is stolen or scrapped

25 February 2015

As new cars hit the road this March, so do the number of new personalised number plates available to buy. Love them or hate them nearly a quarter of a million private plates were sold between 2013 and 2014 alone.*

But drivers who are thinking about splashing out on personalised car trimmings should first consider the insurance implications; namely that if your vehicle is stolen or written off, your private plate may be at risk.

In a study of 226 car insurance policies Gocompare.com found** that if a car insurance policy includes cover for personalised number plates and a claim is made for the cost of the car, including the plate, then the insurer owns the vehicle that the registration number is assigned to and, therefore, owns the rights to the registration number. The claimant can buy the registration number back if the insurer is willing to sell it to the policyholder or hasn’t already sold it on, for no more than the settlement price. If the vehicle has already been disposed of by the insurance company then all rights to the registration plate go with the vehicle.

But that’s not the end of the personalised plate conundrum.

If a vehicle with a personalised plate is stolen, its owner will have to wait 12 months to get the number plate back. They will also have to prove that the car had a valid MOT and tax at the time of theft to reclaim the personalised plate.

If the vehicle has been written off, the owner should contact the DVLA and the insurer to let them know that they want to keep the plate – the insurer will then write a letter of non-interest and send it to the DVLA. The registered keeper will have to pay a retention fee to keep the plate if they don’t have another vehicle to transfer it to. The registration transfer fees are changing from 9 March 2015. The retention fee will be reduced to £80, while the fee for transfer will remain the same at £80. The period that a registration number can be retained for is also being changed from 1, 2 or 3 years to 10 years, the annual retention fee of £25 will also be removed from 9 March 2015.

Motorists who have had their vehicle with a personalised number plate written off have to work fast. If the car is scrapped the number plate dies with it. The registration number moves with the vehicle it is assigned to, not the person who may have bought the registration number.

Matt Oliver, Gocompare.com’s car insurance spokesman, said: “Personalising your pride and joy is a great idea, but if you have invested in a private number plate you should consider whether you have got it properly insured.

“When you register a private plate to a new vehicle you obviously have to tell your insurer or your policy will be invalidated, but you also have to consider whether you have adequately covered the plate itself.

Matt added: “Don’t forget, even though you may be buying a private number plate, it belongs to the vehicle so whoever owns it owns the plate, whether that is you, the insurer following a claim or if it’s scrapped - the registration number remains with the vehicle.

“Speak to your insurance company if you want to keep the cherished plate. Let them know that you want to keep it – make sure you get a letter of non-interest from your insurer as soon as possible, and apply immediately to the DVLA to retain or transfer the personalised number.

“Likewise, if the vehicle is stolen, you must make the insurance company aware that you wish to keep the personalised registration number should the vehicle be found after the claim has been settled.  If the vehicle is not found you can apply to retain/transfer the registration number 12 months after the date of theft providing the insurance company has no interest in the registration number.”

Personalised number plate facts:

  • In December 2014 a new range of ‘15’ plates were released, but they can only be assigned to cars registered on or after March this year.
  • In November last year the most expensive personalised registration plate ever was sold at an auction in Cardiff. The registration ’25 O’ was sold to a Ferrari specialist for just over half a million pounds.
  • Vehicle registration has been a legal formality since 1903.
  • There will never be a 'Z' registration as it looks too similar to the number 2. However 'Z' is used as a letter in the second part of plates.
  • Sequences of letters you will never see on UK plates include BUM, GOD and SEX. This rule was established in 1932 and it's not likely to change any time soon.
  • Failure to display your number plate correctly can incur a £1,000 fine and you may lose your right to display the registration number.

For more information, Gocompare.com has a licence plate guide available on its website. Further information can be found at www.gov.uk.


Notes to editors:

*Source: DVLA - In the 2013/14 financial year, DVLA sold 246,484 personalised registration numbers.

**Source: Defaqto matrix of 226 comprehensive car insurance policies available – correct as of 23/02/2015.