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All about Number Plates and Car Registration: Understanding the Terminology

You probably already know that you need a number plate for your car. But what do the different terminologies mea? What should your number plate look like? What is the ideal size and what is car registration. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that there is a vast difference in the number plates provide to you by the government when you first register your car and private number plates.

The distinction can be confusing especially since private number plate dealers fail to adequately explain the difference particularly in legal terms. To make these terms easier to understand, we thought we’d analyze each of these terms individually.


Car Registration

In the most basic of terms, car registrations as the numbers are letters that are displayed on the number plates. The car is identified by its registration number and the number plate is basically just the tag that identifier appears. Car registrations enable the DVLA and the police to record and identify cars in the UK. This is why one of the questions the police will ask when a car is involved in a crime or accident is, “Did anyone get the registration number?”

UK car registrations have followed several different formats over the years. The increase in registration formats has become necessary primarily because of the large number of vehicles that have gradually used up the available formats.

In the early days, number plates were very simple and has just one or two letters, usually the region code to show which local authority had issued the registration as well as unique four-digit number that would identify the car. This simple format was replaced by the suffix format that added a distinctive year letter at the end. When the last of the suffix combination was exhausted, the prefix format was introduced with the year letter at the beginning. The current format has a numerical year code in the middle of the plate and replaced the prefix format in 2001.

It is also worth noting that the registration number of your vehicle is confirmed on the registration document, also known as the V5C or the log book. This is also the document that registers all significant changes to your car and its functions.


How to Transfer A Car Registration

How to Transfer A Car Registration
The Plateman
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Just as you can change your name if you don’t like it, you can also choose to change the car’s registration number if you don’t like the one issued to you. There are some formalities to be observed but it quite possible to change your car’s registration number.There are three kind of car registration transfer;

  • Transfer a car registration from one car to another
  • Transfer from a retention document or a certificate if entitlement to a vehicle.
  • Transfer from a vehicle to a retention document as a way of storing the registration number until it is needed

If you wanted to transfer registration from one vehicle to another, there are several requirements that both vehicles have to meet if the transfer is to be successful.

They include the following;

  • Both cars must be registered with the DVLA
  • They must also both be available for inspection when required.
  • Both cars must be able to start and move under their own power.
  • They both must be the kind of vehicles that need an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) certificate
  • Both cars must have been taxed or have been covered by a Statutory off Road Notification (SORN) for at least 5 years.

You will also need a V317 form and £80 which is the DVLA transfer fee.
To transfer a private plate from a retention document or certificate of entitlement to a vehicle, you will need to satisfy the following requirements;

  • The vehicle must be registered with the DVLA
  • It must be available for inspection and be able to mover under its own power
  • It must be the kind of vehicle that requires an MOT or HGV test certificate.
  • It must also have been taxed and covered by SORN for more than 5 years

You will then need either a V750 or a V778 document and V5C registration certificate (also known as a logbook.)
Sometimes, it may become necessary to retain a vehicle registration number. If for example, you sell your car but you want to keep the private registration number but you don’t have a new car yet, you can use DVLA’s retention scheme. This scheme allows you to keep a car’s registration in the form of a certificate and when the time comes you can transfer the registration from the certificate to the car.


What is the DVLA?

We have talked about the DVLA extensively when describing the process of vehicle registration. So, you may very well be wondering what the DVLA is and why it is so important. Well, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the legal agency that deals with cars and licensing. Among the issues the DVLA deals with is the issuing of driving licenses and administering of penalty points to those licenses when drivers violate the law. It also the body charged with the responsibility of registering cars in the UK.

The DVLA is also responsible for issuing new registration numbers. These numbers are issued in accordance with the scheduled sequence of registration. There are some numbers that are held back over the years for censorship reasons or commercial reasons. The DVLA can sell car registration at auction if it determines that a certain combination is likely to be attractive.


Our Number Plates

As we mentioned before, the number plate is basically the tag on which the car registration is printed. Number plates are often made of acrylic which is sometimes they may be referred to as acrylic plates. There are certain rules that have to be followed to ensure that the number plates are legal and legally fitted. For example, in order to ensure that the plate is clearly readable by both people, speed cameras and systems such as ANPR, the government has laid out a number of rules that must be followed. These rules cover most of the aspects on the plate including the color, character size, badges, borders and even spacing.

It is also worth noting that the penalties for failing to adhere to these rules can be quite harsh and range from hefty fines to a loss of registration without compensation.


Buying Replacement Number Plates

Sometimes you may need to replace a broken number plate and if you have a broken plate, it is worth knowing that it is possible to replace your broken number plate. But you just can’t buy your replacement plate from just anyone; you have to purchase from a registered supplier. You will also be required to provide several documents to prove your identity and your entitlement to purchase the number plates for a registration number.

These restrictions were put in place by the DVLA and are supposed to help reduce criminals who buy false plates and use them in a crime.


The Right Way to Fit Acrylic Number Plates

Fitting or changing your physical number plate is a simple process; this simple step-by-step guide will show you how;

Step 1: begin by removing the old number plates. If the plates are screwed in place, you may need to remove the plastic screw covers and undo the screws. Don’t forget to keep the screws on case the new screws are too small for the mounting holes.
It is also likely that the plate could be secured using double sided pads or tape that you will have to work lose before you can remove the plate. Removing the tape can take quite a long time since the adhesive is usually very strong.

Step 2: Decide how you are going to drill screw holes. Most manufacturers recommend drilling from the back although you may also want to apply masking tape to the front and then drill from the front. It would also be a good idea to use the old plate to mark screw positions.

Step 3: Now simply place the new plate in a scrap of wood and then drill each hole through the plate.

Step 4: Hold the new number plate in place and then use the old screws or new ones if you have them to screw the plate in place. You may also place plastic screw covers over the screws to help them blend in with the plate background.

You may also have heard of the term “show plates.” These are plates that are intended for use on events and not on a public highway. Therefore, they allow owners to use words, numbers or symbols on the plate. When you use a show plate at an even, it is very important to remember to remove the plate before you drive home otherwise you risk an encounter with law enforcement.

These plates are not meant to be on the roads and are not legal hence the term “show plates.”


How to Get Legal Custom Number plates

Getting vehicle registration number can prove to be a difficult task in many countries. The government agencies saddled with such power and responsibility are always careful when it comes to the issuance of number plates. With only a few exceptions, individuals are also allowed to customize their own plates according to their own choices and preferences.

A lot of people have personalized plates that reflect their identity, wealth, social status and position. While this may count as what is considered for issuing a custom number plate in some countries, some other countries care less about personality in this kind of matter.

Over the years as is seen in some countries around the world, anyone who is interested in having customized vehicle registration plate must be cleared of debt to the government, including tax and other compulsory financial obligation from the government. Anyone who owes the government is made to pay up what they owe before they can enjoy certain privileges, including claiming a customized registration number. In the same vein, anyone who desires anything from the government and has himself cleared of any wrong doing is considered for such demands as personalized numbers.

To some people, the number plate is just a pair of plastic that has alphanumeric characters written on them. It means different things to different people. Like the show plate, you get to choose the character combination that you want on your plate. This could be all numbers or all alphabets. In many countries, you are allowed to go in that direction – all alphabets or all numbers, while in other countries, you must combine both that is, alphanumeric. Sufficient information should be sought in trying to get a customized legal plate, especially in the UK.

Some steps should be taken and advice sought, where necessary before parting with cash in exchange for your desired number plate. As may well know that customized plates are somewhat expensive depending on where you want to get yours. There are thousands of plates that are not yet on the road and are not even available. In this case, only the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) can provide answers to that situation.


How to Get a Personalized Number Plate

Because personalized number plate means a thing or a lot of things to the owner, care is taken in choosing one. There are a few things you need to know before you decide to get a personalized number plate. They include the following;

  1. Acquisition of Display Right – you cannot just put up a plate on your vehicle if you have no such right. You must first of all, have the number transferred to your vehicle officially in place of the old one if it is an old car. And you must officially link it to your new car. In either case, get the approval for the plate before hitting the road in excitement. If you fail to get approval, you could get caught and fined.
  2. Don’t Do it yourself – anyone can attempt to make a plate for himself. After all, all you need is a plastic plate and a few other items in your toolkit to get a plate done. The fine of up to £1,000 awaits anyone who doesn’t follow the right procedures in making a personalized or customized legal plate.
  3. Be Sure the Process is completed – always make sure that after purchasing your desired number plate that the transfer process is completed. If you display a registration number that is not on your vehicle’s V5C, you breach the law and you are liable for fine or penalty. Be patient enough to see the process through.
  4. Verify the Process – When you are sure the process is completed, don’t be in a hurry to display your new plate. Instead, verify it over and over again, just to be sure it is a sealed process. That way, you’re free from the shackles of the law.

Furthermore, there are very strict rules guiding how to display registration numbers on the number plate, whether they are private or general plates. Any failure to comply with the regulations amount to a breach of law which is a punishable offence. Plates must conform to lay down specifications in terms of size, colour, reflective requirement, decoration, font size and spacing and decoration.


Number Plates Character Fonts and Spacing

Every vehicle, since September 1, 2001, are expected to be adorned with only one typeface which is the “Charles Wright 2001” font. It became illegal to have plates with various fonts and designs, including italicized fonts. But, a 3D version of the accepted Charles Wright font style is permitted. Each character must be in compliance to the specifications. A height of 79mm and width of 50mm is acceptable, except for the letters ‘I’ and ‘1’. Each character stroke must have a width of 14mm and a space of 11mm must be between characters grouped together and they must be 33mm apart.


Number Plates Emblem and Borders

For all the vehicles in the UK, they may display flags or emblems of whichever country they choose within the United Kingdom.

  • Euro Flag having a circle of stars with the characters ‘GB’ inscribed on it also.
  • Scottish Flag bearing the St. Andrew Cross with the character ‘SCO’ written on it
  • British Union Flag with the ‘GB’ characters on it
  • Welsh Flag having a red dragon on white and green field with ‘Wales’ or ‘Cymru’ written on it
  • English Flag bearing the St. George Cross with the ‘ENG’ inscription on it.

When driving within the EU and you have the Euro or GB displayed, then you need not have a separate emblem displayed.

It is also required that legal plates are correctly displayed. The number plates (both front and back) must be correctly placed. They must also meet the British Standard BS AU 145d with the front plate being white and the rear or back plate being yellow with font being the mandatory Charles Wright 2001 black font.


Common Violations

  • Decorative variations of the typeface
  • Wrong spacing of characters and character group
  • Altered plate characters
  • Wrongly placed bolts in such a way as to alter the appearance of characters
  • Inscription of religion, sports, logos etc. on the registration plate apart from the acceptable country emblems.

When you have decided on what you want your plate to carry in terms of characters, be sure to have it cross-checked just to be sure it is not registered to another vehicle. For a sum, you can get the number plate that matches your personality, status, class etc. but make sure that you check with the DVLA. It is not enough to have a customized plate, the rules guiding each registration should be strictly adhered to if not, you risk the forfeiture of your plate in addition to a heavy fine.


Conclusion: Note of Caution for Acquiring Number Plate

Apart from patronizing the services of registration plate makers, you can also get it from close relatives or friends. Unless it is through a trusted person that is very close to you, the process of buying number plate could become a daunting task. One of the biggest setback you could encounter is the timing within which money changes hands. The transaction must be deemed ‘cleared’ and money paid certified ‘received’ before complete ownership can be passed from the seller to the buyer. Also, before your registration hits the front and back of your vehicle, there are forms that must pass between you, the buyer buyer, the seller and the DVLA.

This process is only applicable if you are buying from a dealer. Otherwise, the process is not as long when the transaction is a private sale. The services of a lawyer could be sought if you have extra bucks to spare because of this. Otherwise, you have to patiently wait for the process to be completed. When is it completed, you become the proud owner of a legal customized number plate.


Is a Number Plate a Sound Investment?

What comes to mind when you think of a sound investment? Well, to most people a stock portfolio, a house, art, a vintage car or even cryptocurrency and rare metals like gold come to mind. These are all great investment tools but we can bet you’ve never thought of investing in a number plate. As our desires change and are influenced by the world we live in, the investments we make and how we gain returns from these investments is also changing.

But one thing remains the same. Over the years, since ancient times several investment tools have caused a considerable losses that have led to a lot of misery for the investors. We have picked some of the most notable of these failures in an attempt to demonstrate the value in investing in a good number plate and that also sometimes, the most “sound looking” and “sound sounding” investment isn’t always the best one.


1. The Tulips Investment Craze of 17th Century Holland
It is impossible to talk about the impact of bad investments without the conversations somehow turning to tulips. And that’s because there has never been quite a rise and fall in the price of a commodity like the tulips in 17th Century Holland. This single investment incident remains a legendary example of how a seemingly good investment can suddenly turn bad, wiping out people’s savings in a split second.

To understand what happened, it is necessary to understand the Dutch trade in exotic flowers in the 17th Century. At the time the Dutch had managed to open up the world through the shipping of exotic wild flowers like Tulips brought in to Amsterdam from Turkey. Over time, and with increasing demand from the rich, these flowers soon became a status symbol. They appeared in paintings, artistic museums and even on porcelain. As speculators ran rampant in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the price of Tulips was soon at an all-time high. The many available varieties of Tulip bulbs pushed the price even higher.

There was a particular type of tulip that was rarer than other types. These tulips carried a “mosaic” or virus that caused their spectacular coloring but also caused them to wither more quickly than normal tulips. In the winter of 1637, people speculated on the price of this spectacularly colored tulip unaware that it also withered much faster. When it did, the market crashed from within and although the financially grounded merchants and investors held on to their money, most people lost everything.
While this is a clear example of ignorance and blind optimism on the part of investors, it also clearly demonstrates that people rarely understand the inner mechanisms of investing in a natural resource. As to the claim that this experience led to Dutch frugality is a matter of opinion.


2. Investing in Art

With the wealthy often investing in art, you may be forgiven for thinking that art is a sound investment. But Art is actually a very risky investment vehicle. The main reason for this is because tastes change over time and it can also be very difficult to determine the actual value of a particular piece. There are a lot of great paintings by some of the world’s best artists, but there are also a lot of forgeries that are just as good, sometimes even better. Theft is a major problem in the valuation of art.

A particularly unique incident in United States, demonstrated just how the value of art can significantly be affected by certain factors beyond the artist’s control. It is the story of Thomas Kincade, an American painter who became famous in the 1990s for his “paintings of light” that depicted scenes of American everyday life. Over the course of a decade, Kincade capitalized on his fame by not only licensing his works to appear on various merchandise but also opened several galleries.

In a fairly short amount of time, Kincade’s work was everywhere you looked. This was a major problem mainly because it made it easier for forgers to access his work and develop fairly credible forgeries. The easy availability of his paintings also meant that the prices collapsed and people began offloading his originals for far less than they were worth. Eventually, even merchandise sales fell significantly and Kincade was forced to borrow to keep his galleries afloat.

This particular example show how oversaturation of the market can kill and investment since if something is too available, people are no longer motivated to pay for it. Kincade and most of his fans found that out the hard way.


3. Investing in Toys

At the time of Kincade’s art bust, there was another investment bubble in the US, this time focused on Beanie Babies. Beanie Babies were a range of plush toys that were developed by Ty Inc. The toys themselves were unremarkable, except for the fact that the company decided to release them in limited edition series, withdrawing them after a very short period of time.

This business model will attract more than just moms who want their children to have the latest toy, it attracts collectors. Those keen to invest in the toy, sought our specific Beanie Babies for their rarity or production mistakes. There are some parents who even purchased numerous of these toys in the hope that the investment would pay for their children’s college.

For a while, the going was good. Some Beanie Babies even sold for astronomical amounts of money. But over time forgeries began to infiltrate the market. These cheap knock-offs had a devastating impact on the investment and eventually bad press and changing tastes put the final nail on the Beanie Babies coffin. It is still possible to find the occasional rare, authentic Beanie Baby that could fetch quite the payday, but 99% of them are worthless.

This particular example highlights the effect of counterfeits on the market. There is nothing stopping someone from making something just like it.


4. Cyptocurrency Investments

Based on blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies are the most recent investment craze. Blockchain allows for safe, secure and tamper-proof transactions across computer networks. The most popular of these cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin that was invented in 2008 and has quickly become the most used cryptocurrency used to pay for a variety of goods and services.

Early this year, a significant crash of cryptocurrencies saw the most popular lose thousands of pounds in value in just a few hours. Most have said that this could just be the natural investment cycle, with some early investors offloading their coins. But the lack of regulation makes it very difficult to determine what is causing the crash, making Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a fairly risky investment tool for small investors.


5. Investment in Number Plates

You may be wondering how a piece of plastic with some numbers on it can make a good investment. On the surface it may seem like a very bad idea to consider something that is merely attached to your car an investment tool. But the very nature of private car registration can make it possible for you to make a little bit of extra money over time.

Here’s how this breaks down. Each number plate in the UK needs to be unique to identify the car and owner of the car. Therefore each plate is actually attached to a lot of valuable information and as such security around the supply and distribution of these plates has to be high and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) ensures this security.

If you consider there is always the inclination for people to be different which drives them to want unique plate, you can easily see how number plates can make a good investment. People want to adorn their cars with unique plates such as their own name, the name of a loved one and so forth. Therefore if you have the right combination of numbers, you could sell them for a very high price. That’s because there are only so many combinations of letters and numbers and few spell out names or words.
This creates a great demand for these special and rare plates with some of them fetching as much as £11,900 per plate. Depending on how much you purchased the plate, this could be a significant profit. It is also worth mentioning that number plate investment is free of all the other dangers of investing that we have seen above. The controlled supply makes it very difficult to replicate them and it is very easy for a wise investor to find themselves tripling or even quadrupling their returns in a very short time and with very little research.

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