In the UK, trade plates are an essential requirement for the motor trade. If you are a dealer in new and used cars, a manufacturer, a vehicle tester, for example at an MOT station or garage, if you repair or valet cars, or if you collect or deliver vehicles under their own power rather than on a trailer, you will need at least one, and probably several sets.
Trade licences can be taken out for six or twelve months, and all expire on the same dates, 30 June or 31 December. These allow you to drive a vehicle on public roads while it is temporarily in your possession, either as part of stock to be sold or because you are performing work on it for the owner. Occasions when you might need to take such a vehicle out on the road include testing, delivery, transport to a specialist garage or workshop, or demonstrating a car to a potential customer.
Under this system, you do not need to have road tax for the vehicles in your care. If they have no MOT they can only be driven on the road if you are driving to a pre-booked MOT. Nor will you need to register a new vehicle. But are trade plates covered by your motor insurance policy?
If you have specialist motor trade insurance, trade plate use will usually be covered under the road risks section of the policy. It is important to check the wording of your own policy, however, and to comply with all the government’s regulations regarding the use of the trade plate system, otherwise you may find that you are not covered. In a worst case scenario, you could face a hefty fine, or even a prison sentence, if you fail to use your plates in the proper way.
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You may need to provide your insurer with details of the trade plate numbers, so that they can register these with the Motor Insurance Database, MID. Alternatively, your insurer might ask you to register these details yourself. Keeping a record of all plates with the MID helps to cut down on insurance fraud, making life on the road cheaper and safer for legitimate drivers and dealers.
To stay within the law, keep vehicles off the road when not in use, display the plates in the same place you would an ordinary number plate, do not use the same plate numbers on more than one vehicle at the same time, and don’t use a plated vehicle for private purposes.