How Long Can You Keep a Personalised Registration on Retention?

This particular number plates question is asked at least once a week so I decided to make it the topic of today’s blog post. So how long can you keep a personalised registration on a DVLA Retention Document (V778) or on a Certificate of Entitlement (V750) without transferring it to a vehicle?

The answer is; as long as you like. It is fairly common for personalised registrations to be bought as gifts for children. The registration can be held on retention for as many years as it takes for the intended recipient to pass their driving test and get a car of their own. There used to be a fee of £25 payable to DVLA for every year that you kept the registration on a certificate or document, however since 9th March 2015 every retention document (V778) or certificate of entitlement (V750) issued by DVLA is valid for 10 years with no future fees to renew/extend.

What can I do if I have let my retention document or certificate of entitlement expire?

It is advisable to always renew your documents on time and to not let them expire, however, mistakes do happen and reminders sometimes get lost in the post. While DVLA documents state you lose your rights to your registration, an apologetic letter usually resolves the situation.

You will need to pay £25 for every year the certificate has expired to bring it in date up to 9th March 2015 (when the fee was abolished).

So to sum up, you can keep your personalised registration on certificate for as long as it suits you, but remember to always renew your document before it expires. Read this article if you are looking for information about how to place a private number plate on retention.

32 thoughts on “How Long Can You Keep a Personalised Registration on Retention?

  1. Kevin Brown

    Hi, my dad owned a personalised number plate. He passed away in 2008. I have just picked the plates up from my sister and would like to get these put on my car. Can I get this plate put in my name?

  2. gary fleming


    I’ve have a reg on retention since I took it off my car in 2014, the date on the retention cert v778 is from 12/01/2015. I’ve been approached by a company who want to buy it, but the document says it must be assigned to a vehicle before 02/01/2016. Does this mean I’ve lost it or can I still sell it as it is or is there something I have to do before selling?

  3. Elle

    I took my private plate off my car about 4 weeks ago how long do I have to put it in retention so I don’t loose it?

  4. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Rebecca, Ideally you should have retained the registration before sending your car documents to your motor insurer. You could write to DVLA explaining the circumstances and see if they are able to help?

  5. Rebecca

    Hi James after trawling the internet I came across this blog. In July 14 I had an accident and my vehicle was a right off, all my documents had to be sent off to the insurance company and my registration never got put on retention. Since then I’ve always had it my head that I lost my private plate is this the case? Thanks in advance

  6. Martin Hughes

    hi i have a plate on retention. I am selling the reg and would like to know if there is a further charge to the new owner to assign it to their vehicle? I can’t seem to find any clear info on web pages ,can you help please ??

  7. Amanda

    Hi James,

    I’m the nominee on a registration plate bought by a family member, I completely forgot about it and only just found the certificate of entitlement and reminder letter from 2009! Have I lost the registration now? or has she lost it? Now that I’ve found it, I want to assign it to my vehicle. If I can, will I be the purchaser on the certificate of entitlement?
    Appreciate the advice!

  8. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Lorraine, The certificate you receive is valid for 10 years. It can be renewed for a further 10 years as many times as is necessary (under current rules).

  9. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Mark, Whoever is shown as Purchaser/Grantee on the document would have to assign it to a vehicle in your name in order for the rights to pass to you.

  10. Lorraine Large

    Hi, I’m looking to buy a private plate from dvla but not assign to a vehicle yet. How long can I keep it before it needs to be assigned? What is the initial expiry length? Thanks for any info you can share. Lorraine

  11. Mark

    If my ex partner who bought my plate for me as a present but then let it lapse, will I have any chance of getting it back in my own name

  12. stephen

    Hi james, sorry to bother you but need your expert advice , like a few of the other posters I have an expired v778 retention certificate, I am the nominee on the certificate, well my old trading name (s&s motors) is , I did get the grantee to sign the document to have assigned to a vehicle, which I never got round to doing, also grantee signed, change of nominee details which would of been my name rather then trading name, this document expired in 2002 and although I believe I can back date the retention fees what is the best way forward to do this, register a vehicle to s&s motors or try and came nominee, I want to do this online so I can just pay by credit card and sorted done and dusted, your thoughts will be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance stephen

  13. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Helena, Yes you can, see the note ‘Refund of the assignment fee’ on the back of the V778 Retention Document. It is not necessary to pay the renewal fee to reclaim the assignment fee.

  14. helena

    Hi, I paid the £80 fee in 2013 to take my private plate off one car but I didn’t transfer the plate to another car. Nor did I keep the reg on retention renewal. Am I entitled to the £80 back?
    And do I still need to pay retention fees to march 2015?

  15. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Stewart, Yes if it is the most recent issued V778. You can apply online, however you will have to pay DVLA 7 x £25 fees to bring it in date past March 2015 (when the rules changed for renewal fees). You will be prompted to pay the fees by credit/debit card when you apply online to put the plate on your car.

  16. Stewart Tallon

    Hi I was wondering since ive just found my retentsion certifate V778 could I still have this put on my vehicle as it expired in on 10/10/2008

  17. Natalie Roberts-head

    Hi there James.
    Can you please tell me; if I purchase a personalised plate from dvla . What happenes to the old plate that is already on my vechile. Do the dvla keep the old registration number or do I pay to retain it. If I retain it , how much does this cost ? And do I have to renew the retainer , how often ? And also how much? As if I then wish to sell my car how could I sell it with no plates on it? Im presuming i would need to put the origibal plates back on. As I would not want to sell it with my personalised plate. Thank you for your help.


  18. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Philip, Around 28 days before a retention document is due to expire DVLA issue a reminder letter. Ideally you should send the old retention document to DVLA and apply to renew your retention period (it does not happen automatically). Despite what it may say on the document, you do not lose your rights to a registration just because you fail to renew it prior to the expiry date. Under current rules you could come back to the UK in 5 years and apply to extend your documents without an issue.

  19. Philip

    Hi James,

    My wife and I have a plate each, in 2014 we left the country and are currently abroad. Before leaving removed our plates, sold our cars and placed the plates on rentention.

    I was under the impression we might have to pay a renewal fee at some point as recall we paid for 2 years up front, meaning the original rentention would be expiring about now.

    I understand we no longer have to pay an annual fee but do we need to contact DVLA or submit any type of documents now or will our rentention be valid for an additional eight years from now automatically?

    Thank you for your assistance.


  20. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Julia, Providing you didn’t cash-in the £80 assignment fee you can apply to DVLA for a new retention document/certificate of entitlement. You will have to pay any outstanding £25 renewal fees dating back to 2011. Send a brief letter to; DVLA, Swansea SA99 1DS.

  21. Julia

    Hi James,
    What happens to a private registration when you let it lapse?
    I had a private number plate which I purposefully didn’t renew in 2011. A friend has now asked if they can buy it, but I and they cannot find it either registered or listed anywhere. Do you know how we can find out whether it is owned by someone else or if it is still available to buy again? I’ve searched everywhere to find an answer and seem to be going round in circles…

  22. Alastair

    I had a number plate bought for me back in 2010, I’ve just realised that it ran out 2013. I didn’t have a car to put it on so it sat in a drawer now I have one I want to put it on I’ve realised its expired.

    Have I now lost this? It seems unfair to pay so much money for something to just lose it?…

    Regards Alastair

  23. James Saperia Post author

    Hi Tallullah, DVLA will not inform you when the registration is assigned to a vehicle. You can perform a free car data check using a site such as by typing in the registration. If it is assigned to a vehicle the site will return the make and model. If the buyers choose not to assign it they lose out. If you so desire you can send £25 to DVLA to have an up-to-date document issued after the existing one has expired.

  24. Tallullah

    Hi James,
    Sold my private plate. Got the new owner added as the Nominee. (They paid the £25 to do so). Signed and sent the certificate off to them, on the final understanding they were going to assign it to a vehicle – they had been dithering about which car they were going to assign it to and then dithering about paying to get the certificate extended when it ran out (in June 2013) – didn’t fill me with confidence!
    This was in late December. Not had anything from the DVLA to say its been assigned to their vehicle and I am no longer responsible etc. Am now suspicious they haven’t done anything with it and come May I’ll get a reminder to renew!
    If this happens, and I don’t renew, (no reason I should), what happens?
    Will they lose rights to that plate?

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