You must use form VTL301 to apply for a new trade license, this is available to download from the DVLA website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vtl301-application-for-a-first-trade-licence
To apply for a licence, applicants must be a motor trade professional or a registered vehicle tester. A trader must either directly manufacture, repair, or buy and sell new and used cars and vehicles, or have a business which is engaged in the supply of vehicles, such as a car hire or vehicle finance company. Vehicle testers are other professionals who engage in on-road testing of vehicles other than their own, for example after servicing or repair.
Completing the form
It is important to complete all sections of the form, and to correctly sign and date it. You must also pay the relevant fee (see below). Failure to complete any part, or send the wrong fee, will result in the application being rejected. Additional documentation is required to prove your occupation – these include either a copy of your motor trade insurance policy, a public liability insurance certificate, or your registration number at Companies House. Documents are not returned; scanned copies are acceptable. Licence confirmation and plates are usually delivered (separately) within four weeks of application.
Fees and renewals
While most motor traders renew their licences in January, it is possible for new traders to obtain their first licence during any month, with the length of the licence staggered to end in either the following January or July. Annual costs are currently around £165 for all vehicles, and £85 for motorbikes. Applicants can apply for 6 or 12-month licences in January, or for partial years thereafter, with fees adjusted on a pro-rata basis accordingly. For example, applicants in September would obtain a 10-month licence ending the following July, at a cost of approximately £151. (full list of fees are available on the link above).
Trade licences can only be used for specific activities, with failure to comply possibly resulting in a heavy fine. Example uses of licences include:
– Vehicle testing following manufacture or repair
– Testing and demonstration for the benefit of a customer or for press purposes
– Valeting the vehicle between authorised premises (excludes public car washes)
– Travel to and from test stations, or delivery to a breakage yard
– Travel for registration or official inspection
Traders cannot use the licence for personal use, or in place of a normal insurance policy for their own car.
Trade plates must be affixed clearly to both front and rear of cars, or to the rear of motorcycles. they cannot be placed on top of an existing plate (motorcycles excepted) or displayed inside a vehicle.
Offences and fines
There are many offences associated with trade plates, these include:
– amending or writing on plates
– failure to display plates clearly, or using them inside a vehicle
– using plates with an expired licence or without appropriate insurance
– using multiple vehicles on the same licence at any one time
– making a false declaration on a licence form
– use of vehicles for any purpose other than those allowed under licence rules, for example personal travel or everyday use
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Penalties can be severe, including a maximum fine of £5,000 and up to 2 years in prison. The most severe penalties are reserved for fraudulent use of plates, such as lending or altering them, or deliberately making a false declaration on the application form. A lesser fine of up to £1,000 can be levied for other unlawful use of the plates.
Refunds and replacements
If you wish to surrender your license, you can apply for a refund of any complete months left unused, by contacting the DVLA and completing form VTL308. If plates are destroyed, damaged or lost you can apply for new ones using standard application form VTL310. Any other changes, such as a change of name or address, also requires you to complete a new VTL310 application.