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Everything you need to know about UK trade plates



If you’re part of the motor trade industry, trade plates can offer a great way to reduce costs and make your work a lot easier. Trade plates are simply an additional set of registration plates for vehicles that you use temporarily on public roads as part of your motor trade business.

By utilising trade plates, you won’t have to deal with individual vehicle registrations and tax for every separate vehicle that you need to drive as part of your daily business activities. However, it’s important to know that trade plates do not negate the need for vehicle insurance coverage.

Whether you are a trade plate driver or a motor trade business owner, this comprehensive guide covers how to get trade plates, trade plate regulations in the UK, and the legal implications of trade plate misuse in the UK.

From their basic functions in the motor trade industry, and versatile use, to the specifics of trade plate insurance, we’ll cover every aspect to help you make effective and legally compliant use of DVLA trade plates.

This guide covers

  • The basics of trade plates – How are they used, who uses them and how to apply for trade plates.
  • The rules of using trade plates – Who is responsible for their use, how to display them, who can drive using them, and trade plate misuse penalties.
  • The role of trade plate drivers – What are they and what do they do.
  • Trade plate insurance – Do you need it, what and who does it cover, and how to get cheaper trade plate insurance.

Understanding the basics of UK trade plates

What is a trade plate?

A trade plate, often referred to as a dealer plate or trade license plate, is a unique and specialised registration plate issued to UK motor trade businesses. They let these businesses drive certain vehicles on public roads without the need to register or tax them first. 

An example of this would be if a car dealership needs to drive a car it has purchased from the manufacturer to the showroom. Without trade plates, this car would need to be registered and taxed before making this trip. But trade plates let the business drive the car to their own premises without these drawn out and costly measures.

Who is entitled to trade plates?

Before you ask ‘how do I get trade plates?’ you need to consider their proper use. Trade plates are offered to individuals and businesses operating within the UK motor trade industry. This applies to you if you are in vehicle sales, manufacturing or repair, or responsible for testing vehicles on public roads. 

You could also be entitled to them if your business involves vehicle collection or delivery, but this needs to be the primary focus of your business or be carried out alongside vehicle manufacturing or repair services. 

What is a trade plate used for?

The use of trade plates is tightly regulated. So even if you are entitled to them, they can only be used for certain activities that have to be outlined on your application prior to receiving the plates. These can include:

1. Vehicle testing – This allows manufacturers or dealers to use trade plates for testing vehicles on public roads. It also lets you travel to and from vehicle tests or inspections.

2. Demonstrations – Trade plates are commonly used for showcasing vehicles to potential buyers, and allowing them to experience the product firsthand.

3. Relocation – Allows vehicles to drive on roads when being moved to the location where you intend to store it, for example, garages or auction rooms. This also applies to relocating the vehicle from the premises of manufacturers, repairers, or to locations where they will be shipped abroad. 

3. Delivery – Trade plates play a crucial role in allowing dealers to take delivery of any vehicle they have purchased.

4. Repair or dismantling – Allows vehicles to get to mechanics or workshops for repair or dismantling. Valet services are included, but this excludes public car washes.

5. Servicing and inspections – Trade plates can allow you to travel to have a vehicle serviced, or attend inspections like weight checks, MOTs, vehicle roadworthiness inspections or emissions and environmental inspections. 

How do I check if my trade plate is valid?

If you have previously got a trade plate it’s important to know for sure that it is valid before using it on the roads or you could face fines for misuse. Your trade plates will have been issued with an expiry date in either June or December. 

If you are not sure what month your trade plates expire, check your paperwork or even search through old emails that might indicate which trade plate period you are covered for. And if you cannot locate either of these you can contact the DVLA to confirm the validity of your plates. 

How do I apply for a trade plate?

Trade plate application requirements will depend on whether you are applying for new or renewed plates:

  • When applying for a new trade plate in the UK you will need to apply through the DVLA using a VTL301 form
  • If you want to renew your plates, you will be able to do this with a VTL318 form
  • And if you are applying for additional sets of plates you can get these through the same process using a separate VTL301 form.

You’ll also need to submit the appropriate additional documents and the relevant fee. These documents can include proof of business like your Companies House registration number, as well as your motor trade insurance certificate. 

You should receive confirmation and the plates within four weeks of making your application. 

How much does a trade plate cost?

Because all trade plates in the UK are set to expire in either June or December of each year, the cost of your plates will vary depending on when you apply for them. The costs will also look different depending on what vehicle you are using the trade plates on.

Here are some of the current prices for trade plates, and you can also check these directly with the DVLA website.

The month you applyWhen your licence expiresHow long it’s valid forRate of duty for all vehiclesRate of duty for bicycles and tricycles
January (6 month licence)June6 months£90.75£61.05
January (12 month licence)December12 months£165£111
FebruaryDecember11 months£165£111
MarchDecember10 months£151.25£101.75
AprilDecember9 months£136.10£91.55
MayDecember8 months£121£81.40
JuneDecember7 months£105.85£71.20
JulyDecember6 months£90.75£61.05
AugustJune11 months£165£111
SeptemberJune10 months£151.25£101.75
OctoberJune9 months£136.10£91.55
NovemberJune8 months£121£81.40
DecemberJune7 months£105.85£71.20
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Rules for using trade plates in the UK 

These are some of the essential rules that will keep you out of trouble when using trade plates for your business. As a trade plate owner, you are responsible for adhering to these rules so it is important to get them right from the offset. 

Trade plates are a valuable asset to motor trade businesses so they are not something you want to misuse and risk losing. A full list of offences and penalties surrounding trade plates can be found in the DVLA’s trade plate guidance notes

Who owns a trade plate?

Trade plates are owned by motor trade businesses that can use them for a variety of operations and activities within the business. The use of trade plates is tightly regulated, and it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that the plates are only used for the activities outlined in the trade plate application. 

They’ll also need to make sure that the vehicle they are being used on is roadworthy, with a valid MOT (unless exempt), and that they have the appropriate insurance. 

Can you carry passengers when driving with trade plates?

Driving with passengers while using trade plates is generally allowed as long as the vehicle is being used for an activity that has been outlined in the trade plate application. These passengers can include colleagues, potential buyers, or anyone relevant to the business activities carried out under the trade plate.

Can you put trade plates on any vehicle?

Trade plates can only be used on vehicles that are associated with the motor trade business that owns the plates, and they can only be used on one vehicle at a time.

They cannot be used on personal vehicles for social, domestic or pleasure use. In fact, using trade plates for any activity outside of your licence agreements is considered misuse and can result in fines and criminal convictions. 

Can I drive a SORN vehicle on trade plates?

This is possible if the vehicle is genuinely being used for the relevant purposes of the motor trade business that owns the trade plate. However, with motor traders being granted exemptions from the need to make a SORN for vehicles, this is less often the case. 

If you are using trade plates as a workaround for driving SORN vehicles that can not otherwise be legally driven on the road, you risk fines and criminal convictions. 

What is the fine for not displaying trade plates?

If you drive a vehicle without trade plates and you have not properly taxed or insured the vehicle you can be subject to various different fines depending on the details of your situation

An example would be if you are driving a vehicle that is currently SORN without taxing it or displaying trade plates. This could result in fines up to £2,500 or up to 5 times the tax costs. 

Can I borrow trade plates?

No, if you are not part of the motor trade business that owns the plates, or are not using them for the pre-agreed business activities you cannot borrow plates. As the trade plate owner, you can also be penalised for lending trade plates to others.

Can I use trade plates at night?

This is allowed as long as the plates are made clearly visible to others, and they are being used for the activities listed in the trade plate agreements. 

How do I properly display trade plates?

Guidelines on how to display trade plates include: 

  • Display them on both the front and back of the vehicle (just the back for motorcycles).
  • Make sure they can be seen and read from 20 metres.
  • Display them on the outside of the vehicle.
  • Do not cover the existing number plates with trade plates (unless on a motorcycle).

Improper display of trade plates can get you into problems as it is considered a road offence. 

The role of trade plate drivers

What is a trade plate driver?

This is a professional who typically collects and transports unregistered vehicles that need to be moved using trade plates. They are an integral part of the motor trade industry, and ensure vehicles are transported safely and legally. 

Trade plate drivers are usually employees or representatives of a motor trade business, and their use of trade plates is sanctioned by the business.

What do trade plate drivers do?

Trade plate drivers have a wide range of responsibilities, including:

  • Transporting vehicles to and from different locations.
  • Conducting inspections to ensure the roadworthiness of vehicles.
  • Delivering vehicles to customers or dealerships.
  • Adhering to strict schedules.
  • Maintaining accurate records of the vehicles they transport and ensuring that the necessary documentation is in order.
  • Taking responsibility for the security and care of the vehicles they handle.

A guide to trade plate insurance

Unlike tax, trade plates do not exclude you from needing road insurance when you are driving vehicles on public roads. Road insurance is one of the only mandatory types of insurance in the UK, and using trade plates does not make you an exception to this. This is where trade plate insurance comes in. 

Do trade plates cover insurance?

No, trade plates themselves do not provide insurance coverage for UK roads. Trade plate insurance is a specialised type of insurance that covers vehicles driving with trade plates. 

This can be covered under some motor trade insurance policies, but it rarely comes as standard. This insurance protects you and your business against potential liabilities, accidents, and unforeseen events.

How much is trade plate insurance?

There is no way to give an accurate answer to this as the cost varies depending on your business and the level of coverage you need. But you can get an idea of how much it might cost you by considering the various factors that insurers use to set your premiums.

Factors that affect the cost of your trade plate insurance can include:

  • The type of business you have
  • The services you provide
  • How many employees you have
  • You and your employees’ driving history and age
  • Your business location
  • The level of coverage you want
  • The insurer you choose
  • Your claims history

Get a personalised quote on trade plate insurance for your business with our quick and easy quote form.

Who is covered to drive on trade plate insurance?

When you apply for trade plates you will agree on the particular range of activities that you can use your trade plates for. And a lot of what your insurance will cover is linked to what is in this agreement, as well as what is outlined in your particular insurance policy. 

So generally speaking, trade plate insurance will cover employees, customers and any driver operating under the authority of the business that holds the trade plates. But again, they must be carrying out the business activities that you listed on your application any time they use the plates. 

How can I get cheaper trade plate insurance?

With trade plates being a cost effective choice for your motor trade business, it’s understandable that you don’t want to offset these savings by paying a fortune on your trade plate insurance. 

Some things you can do to get potentially cheaper trade plate insurance include: 

1. Decide on the level of coverage you need – like with other vehicle insurances, you have the options of third party, third party fire and theft, or comprehensive insurance. Knowing which option your business needs means you won’t overspend on coverage you don’t need.

2. Be proactive in protecting against claims – Things like risk assessments and risk management measures are not only good business practices, but they let insurers know that you are less of a risk to insure.

3. Build a no claims discount – This one can help you save money in the long run. But until you build this, you can check if your insurer allows you to transfer your personal no claims history to this policy. Only some insurers allow this but it is worth asking. 

4. Pay your premium annually – If you can afford to, paying your premium annually rather than monthly usually comes with a discount from insurers.  

5. Choose higher excess – These can reduce premium costs. But they still need to be amounts you are willing and able to pay when you make a claim. 

6. Compare quotes from various insurers – Comparing quotes can make sure you are not paying over the odds for your insurance and can help you find cheaper prices you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. 

Overall, trade plates are an important tool for motor traders. They can help improve your services and give more flexibility in how you work. So understanding their use, regulations, and insurance needs is vital to protect you and your business from penalties and road violations.

With this knowledge and the appropriate trade plate insurance coverage, you can have peace of mind that your business, your employees, and your customers are protected.

This article is intended as generic information only and is not intended to apply to anybody’s specific circumstances, demands or needs. The views expressed are not intended to provide any financial service or to give any recommendation or advice. Products and services are only mentioned for illustrative rather than promotional purposes

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