Behind the number plate: What info do government and businesses own?


It’s a well-known fact that any car, van, lorry, motorbike or truck without a number plate isn’t road legal. To be able to drive, a number plate is an absolute necessity, up there with road tax, a driving licence and fully functioning lights. However, there’s more to number plates that meets the eye. For more information on driving at night, visit this post.

Currently, there are over 45 million registrations available in the UK from the DVLA. Each plate has a unique make-up, with a combination of letters and numbers used to reflect the year in which each vehicle was registered. Behind each licence number, you will find many pieces of data, including:

  • Where and when the vehicle was manufactured
  • Where the vehicle was sold
  • When the vehicle was registered with the DVLA
  • All previous owners
  • Whether the vehicle has been paid for in full or not

Change of plate

In the case of some used cars that have changed ownership at least once, the licence plate may have changed. This may be because the new owner wants to buy a personalised number plate, which is perfectly fine. In some other instances, it could be a means of trying to catch out the authorities such as the DVLA and the police.

Should a car have a new number plate, there is a possibility that it could be hiding part of that car’s past. Such things could include falling behind on payments, whether or not that car is stolen or details of any accidents that vehicle has been involved in any accidents.

To see if any of that comes up, a HPI check is usually performed. Using a number plate as a starting point, one of these checks bring up all manner of information. Said information is collected from the police, DVLA and businesses – mainly car sellers who have sold the car previously, new or used.

Safety first

It is the seller’s responsibility to let you know whether or not the number plate on the vehicle has changed. If they don’t, they run the risk of selling you short. To avoid any further complications, a HPI check could dispel any worries you may have.

They can bring up something completely innocuous, such as a switch to a personalised plate. Regardless, performing a check is important. The government, in conjunction with car showroom owners and police forces up and down the country, use this info to ensure that every vehicle with a number plate has been bought legitimately.