Number Plate Information UK

"plates" and "registration marks or numbers" to mean the same thing

Car number plates explained

The term Private Registrations has been coined by many people to replace the original "cherished registrations". Initially, the idea of "cherished" was to indicate that a particular registration mark was of sentimental value to the vehicle owner - for example, the mark may have been in the family for a long time or been on the very first car purchased. The regulations (still to this day called cherished transfer regulations, by the way) allowed for the transfer of such a private registration from one vehicle to another.

Lamborghini Orange And Black

What are private registrations?

Nowadays, with the vast array of private registration plates to choose from, the idea of "cherished" is perhaps not so relevant. Yes, these plates can be cherished items - but equally can be regarded as another kind of car accessory or a stepping stone on the way to acquiring a very rare dateless registration mark. Think of it in the same way as a first-time home buyer might purchase a 2-bedroom apartment hoping eventually to purchase a detached, four-bedroomed house in its own grounds.

Other terms used for private registrations

In the number plate industry, we tend to use the terms "plates" and "registration marks or numbers" to mean the same thing. This can be confusing, since strictly speaking, number plates mean pieces of plastic (usually oblong) that are fitted to the front and rear of your vehicle. However, dealers will refer to private plates meaning private registrations.

When you buy from a number plate dealer, what you are actually purchasing is the handling of a service, conducted through DVLA; to change the record for your vehicle on the Swansea computer, thus allowing you to legally display the personalised plates on your vehicle. Most dealers offer a set of acrylic plates as a separate service but their core business is the changing of your vehicle documents and record to show the new private registration.

How did the idea of Private Registration Plates start?

Cherished was the first term ascribed to number plates when such marks were regarded a having sentimental value in the UK.

A particularly good example of personalised number plates is provided by Earl Russell, who queued outside the London office, UK, in 1903 to acquire the plate, 'A 1' for his Napier. Apparently, the Earl sat up all night to be the first in the queue and he successfully beat his nearest rival by five seconds. The 'Car Illustrated' magazine issued on the 23rd December 1903 mentioned that a Mr Oliver of Edgeware handed the certificate to Earl Russell. Later in the mark's history 'A 1' was acquired by the chairman of London county council until, in 1907, Mr George Pettyt purchased the car together with the cherished number plates. 'A 1' was then subsequently transferred onto all Mr Pettyt's new vehicles in turn. When Mr Pettyt died in 1950, the plate was on a Sunbeam Talbot, which was left to Mr T. Laker in the will. However, there was the stipulation that Mr Laker should retain the cherished number plate until his death and despite many offers, this was adhered to. In 1970 upon Mr Laker's death, Dunlop Holidays Ltd. purchased the mark and donated £2,500 to the guide dogs for the blind service as Mr Laker had stated it was his wish for the money from the sale of 'A 1' was to be donated to a dog's charity.

It may be of interest to know that of the previously unissued personalised registration '1 A', sold at the first classic DVLA auction in 1989 for £160,000 on the hammer!

DVLC - What Is It?

The DVLC in Swansea is how technically the name of the actual enormous concrete edifice which houses the DVLA. DVLC stands for Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre and was the former title of the DVLA before the department was termed for an agency.


In 1965, the Government put forward plans to centralise the system of vehicle registration since the numbers of vehicles and drivers were increasing dramatically. In 1974, the DVLC and the LVLO network (Local Vehicle Licensing Offices) began operating. The Centre was responsible for maintaining the vehicle record, issuing driving licences, vehicle registration documents etc.

The old red book driving licence (do you remember it?) was replaced by the computer produced document. By the way, reflective number plates became mandatory.

In 1984 a new computer system was installed at DVLC, providing a link between Swansea and the local department of transport offices which had been reduced from 81 to 53. In 1988, it was recommended that all the executive functions of government should be carried out by executive agencies in the interests of efficiency. Subsequently, DVLC became such an agency, being re-named DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Agency).

I wonder if the German inventor, Karl Benz, imagined all the red-tape and legislation which would become necessary because of his invention of the first petrol driven motor car in 1888. Transport laws have poured off the statue books ever since - how about this early one that stated that all cars had to have a crew of three which included someone to walk in front with a warning red flag for pedestrians and other traffic (oh - and to calm nervous horses).

More History (For Those Interested)

In 1903, the first driving licence was introduced, costing five shillings (around 25p), valid for one year and awarded to anyone who applied with no test either for driving ability or medical fitness required. In 1910, the dreaded road fund licensing is introduced.

Driving tests were not made compulsory until 1935 when they cost 7s - 6d (37.5p) - I seem to recall a dog licence costing around that price when I had my first dog in 1952, but I might be wrong! Interestingly, the driving test was suspended during that year of 1939 to 1945.

Important Information

DVLA is the body responsible for enforcing UK car registration regulations. All UK private registration plates must conform to current DVLA specs. The DVLA was formerly known as the DVLC, but that title is now obsolete and DVLA, is the only current and correct acronym. For information on the location of Agency offices within the UK please follow the link to: DVLA office locations. Please note that we do not go to any part of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency site. Disclaimer: DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. Beef Registrations is in no way affiliated to the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations.

When searching for your ideal number plate, here are some of the terms you may find:

  • Registration number
  • Private registration number
  • Number plate
  • Private number plate
  • Registration plate
  • Private registration plate
  • Personalised registration mark
  • Cherished private registration number plates
  • DVLA plates
  • DVLA private number plates
  • DVLA registration plates
  • Prefix registration
  • Suffix Registration
  • Current style registration
  • Dateless Registration
  • DVLA
  • Dealer
  • Number Plate Dealer
  • Private registration plate dealer
  • Personalised number plate dealer
  • Retain
  • Retention
  • Transfer
  • Transfer Fee
  • Transferring a registration
  • None transferable registration
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Plates
  • Acrylic plates
  • Set of plates
  • Log Book
  • Short term registrations
  • Dateless private number plates
  • Dateless registration numbers
  • Certificate
  • Certificate of entitlement
  • Personal DVLA registrations
  • Private DVLA Registrations
  • DVLA Private Number Plates
Dvla Personalised Registration

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Beef Registrations, was established in 1990 and has been selling cherished plates for over 30 years. Since then the company has grown from strength to strength, and thanks to the enthusiasm of the British public, Beef Registrations Plates have become a brand leader within the personalised plates industry.

Beef Registrations
Watling Farmhouse
Watling Street
LE10 3AR

T: 01455 882885
F: 01455 221174
M: 07836 798888

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