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New Trade Plate Rules

Motor trade licence plates are a must for almost all members of the trade – they can be quickly and easily applied to any vehicle in your control, saving you the unnecessary trouble and expense of taxing each vehicle in turn. In order to qualify for these plates, you must show the DVLA that you’re a vehicle tester or trader, whether as a dealer or manufacturer, if you’re involved in service or repair, or someone who tests vehicles on public roads.

Plates should be used for certain purposes only; these include road testing or demonstrating cars prior to sale or following repair, moving vehicles between trade premises either for sale, repair or valeting, travel to and from vehicle inspection places, and for other testing and trials.

Licences are available from the DVLA for 6 or 12 month periods and expire at the end of June or December. Note that applicants who are requesting plates for the first time are eligible for 7-11 month licences to cover any interim periods before the expiry dates. Fees currently range from £90.75 for a 6 month period for all vehicles, to £165 for 12 months. There are lower rates available for traders who wish to only use plates on motorbikes and tricycles.

Recent changes to the car tax system mean that as of 1st October 2014, vehicle excise duty (VED) no longer transfers to a new owner when a vehicle is sold. This is extremely important for members of the trade as they may require extra sets of plates to cover any vehicles which come into their possession and which need to be taken out on the road for testing or demo purposes. Note that for both new and used cars, only one vehicle at a time can be used on a trade licence, and while the vehicle is on the road both front and rear plates must be used. The plates may also not be used if a licence has expired, nor may a trader display other signage in lieu of official plates. If your circumstances change and you are no longer eligible to act as a motor trader, you may also no longer use the trade plates.

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Penalties for accidental or fraudulent misuse of plates can be severe, with fines of up to £5,000 and even prison sentences of up to two years possible for serious offenders. Note that vehicles which are used under trade licences and plates must also have a commensurate insurance policy in place, otherwise additional fines or penalties may apply.

To understand more about the process, read the guidance notes for applying for a trade licence for more information about eligibility and when trade plates can be used.