How To Display Trade Plates

Last updated: August 2023  | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Wajahat Raja
Wajahat Raja
Wajahat Raja Insurance Expert

Wajahat is an accomplished writer with a drive for finance and content creation. He has an MSc in Accounting and Finance from the University of Northampton. He has a keen interest in exploring a variety of topics like subjects insurance, private equity, and investment banking. His work demonstrates his passion for writing informational pieces which make him an asset in the field of finance

Expertise: Finance, Insurance, Home Insurance, Public Liability
from the MultiQuoteTime Editorial Team July 2023

Trade plates are the strange looking short number plates that are not often seen, but used on the rare occasion that a car being kept for resale or testing purposes has to be driven for business reasons. 

As outlined in the government guidance notes, the plates’ installation and display are subject to a few rules: 

trade plates
  • These plates should always be mounted vertically.
  • They must be clearly displayed so that they can be easily read from 18-22 metres.
  • They must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle and for cars on the front too.
  • They must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle and for cars on the front too.
  • They must be kept on the outside of the vehicle.

The purpose of trade plates is to enable those that work within the motor trade industry to drive vehicles without the need to register or tax the vehicle being driven. The motor trader will still need full or part time motor trade insurance to cover the vehicles being driven

What Are Trade Plates Used For?

These plates are used by motor sales companies and sole traders to move the vehicles they acquire legally without having to register the car for road tax with the DVLA. 

It is complementary to the Statutory Off-road Notification (SORN) that most old, or side-lined cars are required to obtain to avoid paying the full road tax on their cars when not in use, which can be upward of £400 for each owners’ first annual tax payment on each car. 

A car doesn’t need to have a SORN for it to warrant trade plates. Trade plates are often used between one owner and the next and while being kept by the motor trader, trade plates will be used instead of road tax. 

These trade plates, in conjunction with the correct insurance, will allow a motor trader to drive a car with or without a SORN, instead of having to get each car they drive registered with the DVLA and paying each time. 

The plates save motor traders and motor testers time and money, as they don’t have to register each car individually. Instead, lots of plates can be issued for temporary use by sellers and testers before a car is bought and registered. 

What Is Covered By Trade Plates?

In general, three reasons are listed for the use of trade plates: 

  • A motor trader: may use them for vehicles in the temporary possession of a business for testing, trialling, demonstrating, delivering, repossessing or dismantling. 
  • A motor trader who is a manufacturer: may use trade plates on vehicles registered to themselves, if kept only for research and development purposes. 
  • A vehicle tester: may use them for vehicles submitted to them for testing (including the vehicle's trailer, its accessories or equipment). 

There are many specific and complex situations in which trade plates can be used; lots involve scrap, repair, inspection, and testing of the vehicle or parts of it, as well as delivery to the owner, between workshops, stations, and auction rooms. When considering getting trade plates for your business, it’s advised to check the government guidance on the accepted uses of trade plates before making an application. Trade plates are used by those that work within the motor trade industry and include part time and full time motor traders. It allows cars to be driven without the needing to register or tax the vehicle.  

Can You Carry Passengers On Trade Plates?

When you apply for trade plates, you will complete a question on how you intend to use the trade plates. A typical use for those in the motor trade would be to allow perspective customers to test drive vehicles. It would then be an offence to use the trade plates for other uses than those originally stated in the application.

Did you know?  “It’s an offence to display trade plates on vehicles carrying passengers for hire, reward, commercial or personal basis.” 

Are You Insured On Trade Plates?

Trade plates aren’t automatically insured, you need to sort out insurance for any car that you drive, and that includes an untaxed car with trade plates. This can be added on when you apply for your monthly car insurance, or often done via your existing motor insurance policy mid term. This adjustment will add the trade plates to the insurance database, ensuring you are covered for business use when driving these untaxed cars. Social, domestic and pleasure use are not covered on trade plates insurance. 

Can You Get A Speeding Ticket Driving With Trade Plates?

Yes, you can get speeding tickets and fines when driving on trade plates. The fines will be sent to the business address registered on the plates and you could end needing SP30 car insurance. It is very important to display trade plates properly, to avoid any speeding tickets being sent directly to the car’s owner.

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