Glossary of Terms

The car registrations glossary below defines the words and phrases you will come across when buying or selling a private number plate.  If you have any further questions, give us a call on 0121 353 3333 and we will be happy to help.


Black and White Style Plates

Vehicles first registered before 1st January 1975 are entitled to display the older black and white style number plates (but vehicles first registered after this date may not). Remember that you may NOT fix plates to your vehicle displaying a registration mark that is not registered to it so you must wait for official confirmation. Only Vehicles registered with historic tax class are allowed to display the black and silver number plates.


Cherished Number

This is a DVLA term used to describe what some may term a personalised registration mark, private plate, personal number plate etc.

Current or New Style Registration Plate

A type of car registration format. This was issued by the DVLA to be used from year 2001 onwards. The style format is two letters, followed by two numbers and ends in three letters.

The numbers represent the year the car was released and these change every six months on March 1st and September 1st. Example: AA52 BCD.


Dateless Registration

A dateless registration does not contain a date/year identifier. This means it can be transferred to any vehicle, regardless of the age.

DfT, Department for Transport

This is the Parent Government Department responsible for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as well as all “transport” related matters.


In private number plate terminology, the “Donor” is the person who supplies the registration. They will need to authorise the transfer of the registration mark to the person who will next own the registration in question – this person is known as the “Recipient”.

When two parties are involved in the transfer of a registration number, the DONOR is the person who is selling the registration number and the DONOR Vehicle is the vehicle that the registration number is coming from.  The RECIPIENT is the person who is receiving the new registration mark and their vehicle is known as the RECEIVING vehicle.

DOT, Department of Transport

Department of Transport was the name, from 1981 until 1997, of the government department now called the Department for Transport.


DVLA stands for Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. DVLA is a Government Agency with responsibility for maintaining driver and vehicle records and enforcement of breaches of their regulations. The DVLA collects Vehicle Excise Duty – Road Tax.

DVLA issues new car registration numbers and carries out the administrative and regulation of vehicle registrations and number plates, including private plates.


Legally Spaced

Number plates must represent the car registration number and follow the correct spacing requirements as laid down by the DVLA. Numbers must not be made to look like letters or vice versa. Also, number plate fixing bolts should not be used to block or enhance parts of the number plate. Vehicles which do not follow the private plate regulations will fail their MOT. The Police can also issue fixed penalties for illegally displayed private number plates.


New Release

A periodic issue of new registrations by DVLA. New releases currently occur twice a year.


Often seen on the Retention Document, the “Nominee name” will be the same as the registered keeper of the vehicle as it appeared on the V5c registration document.


Personalised Registrations

A Personalised Registration is a term used to describe a registration number which has been bought. It usually identifies the owner or vehicle by name, initials, special numbers or nickname.  DVLA’s term is “cherished registration” and people use a variety of words by which they mean the same thing – eg: private plates.

Prefix Registration

This is a type of car registration. The year of the car can be identified by a prefix letter code. The format is Y123 XXX, where ‘Y’ is the year identifier.

Private Plates

See personalised registrations, above.


‘Q’ Marks

First introduced in 1983, they are issued to vehicles with no determined age. For example, Kit Conversion vehicles were built using components from more than one vehicle or for imported vehicles where the date of first registration is unknown.

Q marks were introduced to protect the used car buyer and it has received widespread support from the police and motor trade.

A transfer of registration cannot be performed on a Q marked vehicle.



The ‘recipient’ is the person to whom the car registration is transferred.

Registered Keeper

The person named on the V5C Registration Document is the registered keeper. This person is also responsible for taxing the vehicle. This may be different to the owner of the vehicle.

Registration Mark

The unique series of letters and numbers that identify an individual vehicle.

Registration Number

Registration Mark/ Private Number Plate.

This is the unique identifier which consists of letters and numbers. It appears in the format as approved by DVLA. The registration number is used by Police to help gain access to the vehicle’s records. The vehicle registration number is attached to the front and rear of all vehicles – apart from Motorcycles. A number plate must also be attached to any trailers or caravans.

There are two font styles allowed on all number plates – standard and 3D font.  No other varieties are permitted. The spacing of the numbers and letters must correspond with that printed on the V5C Registration Document.

Vehicle registration plates have to comply with The British Standard – BSAU 145D. This is broken down below:

  • The British Standard Number (currently BS AU 145d)
  • The name, trade mark, or other means of identification of the manufacturer or component supplier. (The company who actually make the number plate.)
  • The name and postcode of the supplying outlet.
  • A non-reflective border and the Euro-symbol with the national identification letters are optional additions.
  • There shall be no other markings or material contained on the number plate


This is the process of removing a registration number plate from a vehicle. It is retained for up to 10 years on a V778 document at a cost of £80. A Retention Document is issued when the number is not immediately transferred.

The Grantee is usually the person who put the registration number on Retention (i.e. the person registered as the keeper of the donor vehicle). At the time of transfer, the Grantee can be specified at the point of retention.  However, the Grantee cannot be changed once the Retention Document has been issued. When purchasing a registration number, it cannot be assigned onto a Retention Document in your name if it is already on retention.

A ‘nominee’ name can be added to the Document. This will allow the registration to be transferred to a vehicle registered in a name other than the Grantee’s. The nominee name can be updated at any time. However, the nominee cannot assign the registration number or extend the Retention Document and is not recognised by DVLA has having any rights relating to the registration mark.

Road Fund Licence

An old term for Vehicle Excise Duty.

Road Tax

A common, unofficial, colloquial term for Vehicle Excise Duty.


Suffix Registration

A type of car registration in which the year of issue is indicated by a suffix letter code. The format is  XXX 123Y, where “Y” is the year identifier.


Transfer Fee

The standard Government charge for transferring a number plate to or from a vehicle. It is currently £80.

Transfer Process

This is the process which is managed by our team of experts. They are in regular contact with the DVLA, based in Swansea. We do everything we can to ensure the transfer is done as quickly as possible and pride ourselves on our swift and efficient service.


Vehicle Excise Duty

Also known as Road Fund Licence and, commonly, as Road Tax.

VRO – the local DVLA Office

There are no longer any local vehicle registration offices; all cherished transfer business is conducted at DVLA in Swansea.

V5C Registration Certificate

Also known as V5C, V5C(W) and V5C(NI), commonly known as a ‘logbook’. It is a two-page certificate that is issued when a vehicle is registered with the DVLA. It is predominantly red in colour and will have a watermark in the white box when held up to the light.

This document is not proof of ownership, as the DVLA records vehicle keepers, and not the “owners”. The registered keeper is sent the V5C.

The information it shows includes:

  • vehicle registration number
  • vehicle keeper’s name and address
  • other important information about the vehicle (the make, vehicle identification number (VIN) and number of previous keepers)

V317 Document

This is the application form which is required to transfer a number from vehicle to vehicle, or vehicle to retention.

V62 Form

This form is used to apply for a replacement V5C registration document.

V750 Certificate of Entitlement

This is a DVLA certificate that holds a newly issued registration number until a vehicle is available. The certificate can only be renewed by the person who purchased the number plate. The number plate can only be assigned onto a vehicle registered to the purchaser or nominee.

V778 Certificate of Retention

This is a DVLA certificate that is issued by them when a registration mark as been “retained” (see Retention, above).
Spot anything incorrect or have a new term to add? Give us a call on 0121 353 3333 or fill out our Website Feedback form. 


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