Do personalised number plates affect car insurance?

Thinking about getting a personalised number plate? Find out how to go about it and whether it could affect your car insurance costs.

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There are many reasons why you might want to get a personalised number plate. But what are the rules surrounding personal plates and how does having one impact car insurance?

What are personalised number plates?

Every vehicle in the UK must have a unique registration number that is clearly displayed at both the front and the back of the vehicle.

When you buy a vehicle, the registration plate will automatically be assigned to it. But some people prefer to opt for a personalised number plate to make their car more individual. This will come at a cost, but enables you to pick your own choice of numbers and letters on the registration.

What does a personalised number plate look like?

Since 2001, the standard format for a vehicle registration plate has been 2 letters (indicating the region where your vehicle was first registered), 2 numbers (to state when it was issued) and 3 random letters.

Let’s say, for example, that someone named Lisa May Scott has a standard number plate that reads “WV54 PNR”. She could decide to personalise her plate and change it to “LI54 MAY”.

However, the number of letters and numbers on a personalised plate can also have a different format, so Lisa could also pick something shorter like “NI LMS” to cover her initials.

Finder survey: What proportion of Brits would consider upgrading their car to have a personalised numberplate?

Personalised numberplate13.57%14.62%14.83%23.6%27.18%
Source: Finder survey by Censuswide of 1032 Brits, December 2023

There are strict rules that dictate the correct display of registration plates. A private number plate must:

  • Be made from reflective material
  • Display black characters on a white background on the front plate
  • Display black characters on a yellow background on the rear plate
  • Not have a background pattern
  • Not have an altered font or spacing
  • Not make your car seem younger than it is

If your number plate does not meet these requirements, you will be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT.

Note that your personalised number plate might also be banned by the DVLA if it is considered rude or offensive.

How can I buy a personalised registration plate?

Provided they come with the correct documentation, you can buy a personalised registration plate from whoever is selling them. However, it’s generally safer and cheaper to buy DVLA number plates.

The DVLA has a large database of personalised number plates on its website that you can search with your selected letters, such as your initials or name. You’ll then be able to view a list of available licence plate numbers that are similar, along with the price.

The DVLA also holds plate auctions during the year where you can bid in person, online or over the phone.

Buying through the DVLA will also make your life easier if you later want to transfer your personalised plate to another car, as it won’t be necessary to provide additional documents or proof.

How much do personalised number plates cost?

This will depend on the personalised plate you’re buying. Costs can be as low as £200, but as high as several thousand pounds. Generally, you will find that the more unusual the plate, the more it will cost. If your number plate has a similar format to a non-personalised plate, you’ll usually pay less.

How do I register a personalised number plate?

When you register a new personalised number plate, you’ll need to have a V750 Certificate of Entitlement so that you can officially transfer the new number plate to your car. You can do this via the government website or by post, and you will need your car’s V5C logbook on hand.

Can I transfer my personalised number plate?

Yes, you can. If you’re buying a new car and you want to transfer your personalised plate across, the DVLA will do this for you, provided you pay a fee of £80. This is the case even if you haven’t yet got a car to put the plate onto. You can keep the plate until you’re able to register it to your new vehicle.

Note that you’ll need a V778 Certificate of Retention to transfer the number plate to another vehicle.

Does a personal plate count as a modification?

Making changes, or modifying your car, is usually viewed negatively by insurers. This is because modifications can make your car more valuable which means the cost of repairs, and so any insurance claims, could be more expensive. If you’ve made modifications to increase the speed or power of your vehicle, this could also increase the risk of you being involved in an accident, which will again increase your insurance premiums.

Fortunately, most car insurance providers do not count personal number plates as a modification. That said, this will vary depending on the provider, so it is always worth checking with your insurer first.

Does having a personal plate affect my car insurance?

In most cases, the price of your car insurance is unlikely to be affected if you have a personal plate, simply because most insurers do not class them as a modification.

However, in the event your car insurance provider does view a personalised number plate as a modification – for example, because it makes your vehicle more attractive to thieves – your premiums could rise as a result.

If your personalised plate was expensive, you will also need to ensure that your car insurance provides sufficient cover to protect it. Not all policies will offer cover specifically for personalised plates, so it’s important to discuss this with your insurer.

Do I need to tell my insurer about my personal plate?

Yes, if you have a personalised plate for your car, you must inform your insurance provider as soon as possible. Keep in mind that a registration number is assigned to a vehicle and not the person who bought it.

What happens if I do not tell my insurer about my plate?

If you don’t tell your insurer about your personalised number plate, you risk invalidating your car insurance policy which means any future claims you make will be rejected.

Why do I need to inform my insurer if I want to change my number plate?

There are several reasons why you will need to inform your insurer if you’re changing your number plate.

For a start, if you make changes to your vehicle’s registration number, you will need to prove that it was done legally and that you’re still the rightful owner of the car. Provided you have informed your insurer of the change, you won’t have to prove your ownership of the car if it is later stolen.

If your car is stolen and you need to make a claim for the full value, you will receive a lump sum payout from your insurer if your claim is successful. Ownership of the vehicle, as well as the personalised plate, will then be transferred to the insurer. If your policy includes cover for your personalised plate, you may be able to add this to the cost of your claim. However, this will usually mean you lose ownership of your number plate.

If you want to be able to keep your personalised plate if your car is stolen and cannot be found, you will still need to have informed your insurance provider and have received a letter to state they have no interest in keeping your number plate.

Does my car insurance cover custom number plates if my vehicle is stolen?

This will depend on the provider, but many insurance policies will not specifically cover the loss of a personalised plate if it is stolen. Despite this, you should still inform your insurer if you are changing your plates to ensure you retain ownership in the event the personalised plate is lost or your car is stolen.

It’s important that you get a letter from your insurer to state they have no interest in owning or keeping the personalised plate if you need to make a full claim on the vehicle. Otherwise, if the vehicle is written off and the car scrapped, the number plate can disappear with it.

Do car insurance companies charge for changing a number plate?

No, not usually. Most insurers don’t class personalised plates as a modification so you shouldn’t be charged extra, but it’s worth checking to be sure.

Bear in mind that if you have a particularly expensive and rare number plate, some insurers may charge a premium to cover the cost if the plate is stolen.

How does the number plate system work?

The current format for number plates is as follows:

  • 2 letters to identify the location where the vehicle was registered
  • 2 numbers to represent the year when the vehicle was registered
  • 3 randomly generated letters

For example, WA18 RTA indicates the car was registered in Exeter in March 2018.

Number plates registered during 1983 to 2001 show the age first, followed by 3 numbers specific to that vehicle, and then 3 letters to identify where the car was registered.

For example, with the number plate A675 ABC, the “A” indicates the year the car was sold, in this case 1983, and the BC indicates it was registered in Leicester.

Vehicles registered during 1963 to 1982 have the age identifier at the end and the regional identity at the start – so ABC 675A, for example.

Bottom line

If you’re thinking about buying a personalised number plate for your vehicle, the good news is it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on your car insurance. However, it’s still crucial that you inform your insurance provider if you plan to change plates and take steps to keep your car safe and secure, particularly if you’re buying an expensive plate. For example, always park in well-lit areas and etch your car’s registration number onto the windows as this can act as a deterrent.

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Rachel Wait is a freelance journalist and has been writing about personal finance for more than a decade, covering everything from insurance to mortgages. She has written for a range of personal finance websites and national newspapers, including The Observer, The Mail on Sunday, The Sun and the Evening Standard. Rachel is a keen baker in her spare time. See full bio

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