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How to retain a private number plate

Private number plates add unique style to your car – but what should you do if you're selling your car or don't know what car you want to put your private plate on?

Luckily, you have the ability to retain the private plate on a document. This lets you hold on to the plate for several years, so you can apply it to a car or other vehicle once you're ready.

Want to transfer a private number plate directly to another car? Read our guide to transferring private number plates.

What is retaining a number plate?

Car buyer and person by car

Retaining a private number plate means you hold the legal right to use that plate on a vehicle. If you don't yet have a vehicle to put the plate on or aren't sure what vehicle you'd like to fit it to, you retain the right to the number plate for later use.

You can hold the plate on retention for several years or, if you keep renewing your ownership, hold it indefinitely. Once you've decided what car you'd like to apply the plate to, you let the DVLA know and they'll transfer it to that particular car.

How to retain a number plate

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You need to apply to the DVLA to hold on to a private number plate.

  1. To start, you'll need to be the registered keeper of a car with a private number plate you want to remove and retain
  2. If you've bought a private plate from a number plate dealer, they can put the plate on retention before supplying it to you
  3. Visit the 'Take a private number off a vehicle' section of the DVLA website
  4. Complete the online form – you'll need the car's V5C logbook for this stage
  5. Pay £80 to complete the transaction
  6. You'll get a confirmation email if you gave the DVLA your address
  7. The DVLA will send you a V778 retention document, which proves the plate is yours
  8. Your V778 document is valid for 10 years
  9. You can transfer the plate to a car for free at any time, or extend the retention period for free

How much does it cost to retain a number plate?

Nissan Qashqai new number plate

Technically, it doesn't cost anything to retain a private plate. The part of the process that costs money is when you ask the DVLA to remove a number plate from a car – this applies whether you want to retain the plate on a V778 document or directly transfer it to another vehicle.

The price to remove a private number plate from a car in the DVLA's database is currently £80 – reduced from £105 in 2015. If you decide to retain the plate on a V778 document, this lasts 10 years and can be renewed for free before its expiry date.

How long can you retain a private number plate?

Sports car side on

The standard V778 number plate retention document entitles you to the plate for 10 years. If you do nothing during this time and allow the document to lapse, you'll lose the right to use that plate.

You can hold the plate on retention for longer than 10 years. Simply apply to the DVLA to renew your V778 document before its expiry date – this service is free to use.

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