The art of trading plates


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Separating your vehicle and number plate may seem appalling, but in most cases it won't harm the value of either : credit: © Alisdair Cusick
Trading Land Rover licence plates will need a lot of research, but get it right and you could be quids in

Sometimes when you apply for a credit card or buy a TV you’ll be offered a cashback deal. After using it for a while you are given a voucher or simply credited with money in your account. If you buy a Land Rover wisely, you could get a similar sort of deal handed to you on a plate.

Selling the original registration from a classic Land Rover is controversial and will fill many enthusiasts with horror. It’s not something any trader or expert would recommend on an historically significant vehicle, but on a normal Land Rover it makes very little difference to the value of the car, won’t harm your enjoyment of it one jot and could fund upgrades and renovations which will make you happier than any random set of numbers and letters screwed to the ends of your car.

We watched one 1960 Series IIA go through auction with a dateless three number, three letter registration. It had been on the car since new, and the car was taxed so it would be an easy online process taking a few minutes to transfer or retain the rights. The numbers were pleasingly repetitive (626) and the letters were common initials. A quick check of numberplate dealers and auctions suggested it has a value of around £1000.

And yet the price the Series IIA reached was no more than you’d expect from a similar car with a nontransferable plate. In fact, there was no mention of the registration at all in the auction listing, meaning buyers will have to have done their own research to discover the potential cash bonus.

It means you, too, will need to do some homework if you are hoping to cash in on a potential purchase. Once a numberplate has been transferred, the DVLA will issue the car with a new number which will be appropriate for the age – in this case another three letter, three dateless plate – but it will be nontransferable, so it cannot be sold or swapped to another vehicle.

The only way to know if this has happened is to check the V5C registration document. All mention of the old number will disappear online on MoT records, although a HPI-type data check should tell you about any plate transfers.

It’s not just the pre-1963 cars which can offer the potential windfall of a priceless plate. A later car with a low number suffix number, such as TAB 1X for example, will have a four-figure value. Pretty much anything which can represent a name, car or other word will have a significant value.

If you are buying – or selling – a car for export, there is not even the niggling doubt which might make you feel uncomfortable about stripping a car of its heritage. If you are outside the UK and buying, try to find someone in Britain who will help you cash in the registration. If you are selling to an overseas buyer, ask them if they would mind if you kept the number. Just make sure you do it in sufficient time to get the registration document back from the DVLA before the car is due to be sold.

Get a registration deal right and you could even get a car for free. We know a buyer who picked up a solid but shabby Freelander 1 through the friend-of-a-friend network which came from someone who was in their 80s and giving up driving. It had been registered when new with a prefix number starting with K8 and three letters which could represent a common surname.

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The seller was happy to let it go with the car as she had no more need for it and couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork. The lucky new owner sold it to a plate dealer for £1000, meaning the car cost them absolutely nothing.

On the flip-side of this, a buyer bought a 1991 Range Rover registered with a similar plate starting with J9 and the first owner’s initials. When bidding on the car, he assumed the plate would be easy to sell on and factored the estimated £400 value into the price. It was only afterwards that he saw the nontransferable note on the V5C.

It turns out it was the original registration from new, and the second owner put his own personalised plate on the car in the mid 1990s without putting the J9 on a retention certificate. When he sold it and removed his own number, the car reverted back to the J9 and the DVLA rules deemed that it could never be sold on. He’s now stuck with a car wearing the initials of a man who bought the car 30 years ago.

There are other issues if you do come to sell too, with a whole grey area about the transfer of rights to the registration which mean that to be safe you either need a lot of trust, go through a dealer or meet the buyer in person and take cash before signing over the paperwork.

Like most areas of Land Rover ownership, trading plates will need a lot of research and there are some big potential pitfalls. You might also find some other enthusiasts could get snooty about your choice. But get it right and you could afford a better car than you thought possible.


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