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Understanding UK Vehicle Trade Plates: A Guide for Motor Traders


Jun 18, 2024 #Trade Plates

In the UK, trade plates are an essential tool for motor traders, repair shops, and vehicle testers, allowing them to legally drive unregistered or untaxed vehicles on public roads. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of how trade plates work, who can use them, and the rules surrounding their usage.

Eligibility and Application

Who Can Apply: Trade plates are not available to the general public. They are specifically issued to businesses involved in the motor trade. This includes car dealerships, vehicle repair shops, and companies involved in vehicle testing. The primary requirement is that the business must be actively involved in activities that necessitate the movement of unregistered or untaxed vehicles.

Application Process: Businesses wishing to obtain trade plates must apply through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The application process requires the submission of detailed information about the business, including proof of its involvement in the motor trade. This could include business registration documents, VAT registration, and records of motor trade activities.

Usage Rules

Authorized Uses: Trade plates can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Driving a vehicle to or from a place of sale.
  • Transporting a vehicle to or from a place of repair.
  • Taking a vehicle to a testing center.
  • Conducting a test drive for potential customers.

Restrictions: There are strict restrictions on the use of trade plates. They cannot be used for private purposes, such as personal errands or family trips. Additionally, they cannot be used on vehicles that are carrying goods for hire or reward. The primary purpose must always be related to the business activities of the motor trade.

Displaying Trade Plates

Placement: Trade plates must be displayed prominently on the vehicle. They should be placed at the front and rear of the vehicle, ensuring they are clearly visible to other road users and law enforcement. This visibility is crucial for compliance and helps in identifying the vehicle as one operating under the authorization of trade plates.

Format: The design of trade plates is distinctive, featuring a red-on-white color scheme. Each pair of plates comes with a unique identifying number issued by the DVLA. This number is recorded in the DVLA’s database and can be traced back to the issuing business.

Validity and Renewal

Validity Period: Trade plates are typically issued for periods of either 6 or 12 months. Businesses can choose the duration that best fits their needs during the application process.

Renewal: As the expiry date approaches, businesses must renew their trade plates through the DVLA. The renewal process involves re-confirming the business’s eligibility and providing any updated information. Keeping trade plates valid is crucial to maintaining compliance with the law.

Penalties for Misuse

Misuse: The misuse of trade plates can lead to serious consequences. This includes using the plates for unauthorized purposes, failing to display them correctly, or using them on vehicles that do not meet the criteria set out by the DVLA.

Monitoring and Enforcement: The DVLA actively monitors the use of trade plates. This can involve inspections and audits to ensure compliance. If misuse is detected, businesses can face fines and the revocation of their trade plates, which can severely impact their operations.


Trade plates are a valuable asset for businesses in the motor trade, providing the flexibility to move unregistered or untaxed vehicles legally on public roads. However, with this privilege comes the responsibility to adhere to strict guidelines and regulations set by the DVLA. By understanding and following these rules, businesses can ensure they remain compliant and avoid penalties, thereby supporting their operations efficiently and legally.

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