The ultimate guide to lease car number plates

Car number plates make common, unavoidable, and largely subconscious, appearances in all our lives. They are a beacon of pride for many motorists and provide a critical role in road safety and security.

Ultimately, number plates are the means of identifying a car and linking it to its owner. This ensures responsibility in the case of minor misdemeanours right up to convictable crimes, assurance for damage responsibility at a collision site, and proof of car insurance, tax and MOT where applicable. Without them, our roads would be a lawless and dangerous place.

Cherished or private number plates are also used by many motorists and this personalisation justifiably brings even greater attachment to their vehicle of choice. There is also immense pride for drivers who are lucky enough to be driving a new car and this is identified most prominently through the age identifier on the registration plate. It is this factor that still significantly amplifies vehicle registrations within plate change months of March and September.

While the value and necessity of car registration plates is clear, their compilation remains a mystery to many of us. What does the combination of letters and numbers on car number plates mean? What does the new green splash indicate? Have registration plates changed after Brexit?

Plus, as with any form of identification, number plates can come with their fair share of administration. And as leased vehicles are registered to the funder of the vehicle rather than you the driver, this brings with it extra considerations.

Here is our guide to everything you need to know about car number plates for lease cars.

The current number plate system

The UK’s number plate system has undergone a number of changes but has been in place in its current form since September 2001. Northern Ireland does have its own system in place, so the below is relevant to vehicles registered in England, Scotland and Wales only.

Number plates are compiled of six characters: two letters, followed by two numbers, followed by a space, then three more letters.

Number Plate example
  1. Memory tag
    The first two letters are known by the DVLA as the ‘memory tag’ and simply identify where the car was first registered. Each region has its own letter code: Welsh regions start with a C (for Cymru), Birmingham with a B and London regions are indicated with an L. Vehicles registered in the West of England, where the Carparison head office is, will have number plates that start with a W.
  2. Age identifier
    The subsequent two numbers are the car’s ‘age identifier’. This signifies which six-month period the car was first registered within. The numbers used change every six months – in the plate change months March and September. Vehicles registered between March and August have an age identifier reflective of the year in question: 21 for this year (2021), 22 for next year (2022) etc. For those registered in September – February it is the year plus 50: 71 for this year (21 + 50), 72 for next year (22 + 50) etc.

    Without unanticipated legislation changes, this system is expected to remain in place until February 2051.
  3. The final three letters
    The last three numbers in a number plate are random. This excludes the use of I and Q through confusion with 1, 0 or O. The DVLA also withholds word combinations on number plates that could be considered rude or offensive.

Did UK number plates change after Brexit?

There was only one change to British number plates in the aftermath of the conclusion to the Brexit transition period back in December 2020. This was the removal of the EU symbol above the national identifier in the left section of new plates.

This could be replaced by a Union flag, St George’s Cross, Scottish Saltire or Welsh Dragon.

As one of the rule changes for driving in the EU after Brexit, this change means that drivers will now have to display a GB sticker on their vehicle if travelling in EU territories. According to Government guidance, only number plates with the GB identifier and Union Jack flag will not have to display an additional GB sticker.

You will therefore need to clearly display a GB sticker when travelling in Europe if your number plate has:

  • A Euro symbol
  • A national flag of England, Wales or Scotland
  • No flag or identifier
Green number plate

Image source:

What are green number plates?

Green number plates were introduced in the UK in December 2020. A green tab on the left-hand side of a number plate will identify that the vehicle is fully electric and therefore produces zero emissions.

The introduction of green number plates is an initiative by HM Government to raise awareness for the number of electric vehicles on our roads and reward these drivers with reduced parking fees and use of restricted lanes. They claim it will support the transition to electric vehicles for more of us, helping us along the road to being net-zero by 2050. It also builds on plans to ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Green number plates can be retrofitted to electric vehicles that were registered before the change took place. All newly registered electric vehicles will receive a green number plate as standard.

Does a car’s number plate affect its residual value?

As a car’s number plate is intrinsically linked to a car and its age, history and number of owners, it can reveal a lot about the vehicle's value.

Service, accident, and repair history as well as the number of registered owners a car has had can all affect a car’s value. That’s why many used car buying tools can provide a provisional value for your car using the number plate alone.

The age identifier of a car can also influence its value. The tendency for many car buyers to hold out until the plate change months of March and September isn’t only an indicator of the pride in owning the newest vehicles. As the most explicit identifier of a new car, cars with number plates disclosing the latest age identifier will likely be more expensive initially but will also hold their value better than older cars.

When choosing between our best lease car deals, the number plate isn’t something you need to worry about as the rate see will already have considered all elements affecting the depreciation of your chosen vehicle. Unless otherwise stated, all new vehicles will be registered under the age identifier according to the time it was sold. The only exception may be for pre-registered vehicles.

What is a pre-reg lease vehicle?

Choosing a pre-reg vehicle is a great way to lease a brand-new car at a much lower price.

Why? Because some cars will be registered by the dealership before being leased to hit registration targets; earning more from those bonuses than they lose in the value of their assets. They will still be completely new cars, but their new price will reflect the fact they have a previous registered owner - the dealership.

There are pros and cons of a pre-reg vehicle, but as a car lease customer a pre-reg car can be a fantastic way to get behind the wheel of in-stock cars at a fraction of the cost. Depending on when the car was registered, it may mean your lease car does not have the latest age identifier on its number plate. However, you will be driving away a new car at a cut cost.

Cherished number plates

How do you transfer a cherished plate onto a leased car?                             

The good news is that it is possible, but the bad news is that is does require a bit of planning.

A private or cherished plate is a unique and personalised number plate chosen by the driver. Private plates can be hugely sentimental and can come with quite a price tag. So, keeping these plates long term, despite vehicle changes, is an important factor for their owners.

The biggest difference for cherished plate owners who wish to transfer their plate to their lease car is that you will be required to organise this through your funder as they are the vehicle owners.

They will ask you to complete the relevant forms that they will need to submit to the DVLA on your behalf. Because of this, there may be a fee involved.

Here’s what to do:

Firstly you will need to ensure the funder of your lease deal is named as a Nominee of Entitlement (V750). This can be completed by post but is easiest online by creating a DVLA personalised registration account.

This essentially allows you to name the funder to be able to process the registration on your behalf.

The funders will need to receive the certificate of entitlement created as a result of the application above. They will also likely require settlement of their administration fee before proceeding any further. Contact them as early on in the process as you can to ensure the smoothest transition, and to ensure they have what they need at the right time.

Once received, they will transfer the required documents to the DVLA to process the transferal of your cherished plate to the new lease vehicle.

Upon approval, all documentation will be returned to you and you can fit your cherished plates to your new lease car. Note that doing so before this all-clear will leave you liable to a fine. 

The DVLA advise that it can take up to six weeks to complete a cherished plate transferal once they have received all documentation. It is recommended to start this process after the delivery of your lease vehicle. Doing so beforehand could considerably delay the delivery of your lease car. You must inform your insurance company of your new registration and update any automatic payment accounts. For instance, those that link to congestions charges, low emission zone charges or ultra Low emission zone charges. 

Removing your cherished plate at the end of your lease

If you have successfully transferred your cherished plates to your lease car, you must remember to remove them and reattach the original ones before the lease car is returned. You will need to start this process at least six weeks ahead of the end of your contract. And again, this will need to be through contact with the lease funder.

Funders can work in different ways around this, so we would recommend giving them a call early on to understand their exact requirements.

However, steps will generally include:

  • Sending the funder a cover letter detailing the owner of the cherished plate and the desire to change it back to the original registration, and when. They will need to apply for the V778 retention document on your behalf.
  • Include a cheque of £105 payable to the DVLA
  • Paying the funder’s administration charge

The funder will then process the relevant documentation on your behalf once again. Relevant paperwork will be returned to you, including consent to transfer the number plates back.

The DVLA will send the retention certificate for your cherished plate to you around two weeks after the transfer is complete.

Cleaning car

Number plate laws

Ultimately, our number plates must be clear and legible at all times. If they can't be read by eye or by speed or parking cameras, CCTV or other recognition software, they are not fit for purpose. 

You could be fined up to £1000 if your number plate is obscured - this includes by mud or dirt. Your vehicle will also fail its MOT if your vehicle's number plate is incorrectly displayed.  

If you are pulling a trailer, it must display the same number plate as the vehicle pulling it. If you are pulling multiple trailers, this additional plate should be displayed on the last trailer of the pack and must be clear. 

There are also strict rules for those manufacturing number plates to ensure their consistency and readability.

Car number plates

For many motorists, a number plate isn't something that affords much attention. For others, it is a source of great pride and personality.

Either way, there are strict rules about number plate form and upkeep, whether driving home or abroad. And, for those hoping to keep hold of cherished plates, there are extra considerations to make when leasing.

As the intrinsic link between a car, its history and its owner, number plates undeniably form a small but mighty part of every motorist's time on the road. And one we will certainly be taking more notice of from now on!

Sarah Hunt

Sarah Hunt

Sarah is the Head of Marketing and she's tasked with keeping the fantastic marketing team in line. She's probably the reason you've heard of us, and her wealth of marketing experience means that no challenge is too big.