How to retain a registration number

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Putting a number plate on retention
Under the DVLA Retention Scheme, the DVLA allows you to remove a registration number from a vehicle, without assigning it to another vehicle. The registration number is kept on a document called the V778 Retention Document (or Retention Certificate).
This is often referred to as putting a registration number on retention. You can choose to hold a registration number on retention for one, two, or three years.
What is a number plate retention certificate (V778)?
How to apply for a number plate V778 Retention Document
You can apply to retain a registration number using the DVLA form V317 “Application to Transfer or Retain a Vehicle Registration Number”. 
Complete the V317 form and follow the instructions.

Can I retain my number plate if MOT or tax has run out?

Will I get a Retention Certificate straightaway?
No.  The V778 Retention Document will be posted to you.

Before approval, the DVLA office may decide to inspect your vehicle. This will be to confirm the vehicle’s entitlement to the registration number. In particular, they will check the VIN number and chassis plate. The DVLA office will inform you if they wish to inspect the vehicle.

In our experience, older vehicles in particular are often inspected.

If you are asked to produce the vehicle for inspection and the MOT / tax has expired, you will need to have it transported to the DVLA office! Don’t drive it there.
Note that you may not get all of your fee back if your application to retain the registration number is turned down.

How do I get a new registration number?

When your application to retain the registration number is approved, the DVLA will allocate a replacement registration number that reflects the age of the vehicle. If possible, the DVLA will try to reissue the vehicle's previous registration number.
Replacement registration numbers are issued on a non-transferable basis. That means you will not be able to sell the replacement registration. You can, however, replace it with another private registration number at a later date.

What happens when the retention is approved?

When your application has been approved by the DVLA, you will receive a V778 Retention Document. Don’t sell or scrap your vehicle till you receive this document!

The DVLA will also issue a replacement V5 registration document reflecting the replacement registration number.

Your Retention Certificate is valid until the expiry date printed on it. If you haven’t assigned the registration number to a vehicle before the expiry date, you will need to apply to extend the certificate. You will find instructions on how to do this on the back of the V778 Retention Document.

DVLA number plate retention fees
Application to retain a registration number: DVLA fee £80.