How To Check If A Number Plate Is Available Or Taken


If you have searched for your perfect number plate across various number plate sites and the DVLA, and can't seem to find it anywhere, it could either have been already purchased and be being used on a vehicle, or never have been issued.

Check if the plate is on a vehicle

Thankfully, in recent years, the DVLA have invested in many online systems, including their MOT checker, which allows us to find out if a registration is on a vehicle.
You can enter your perfect registration into this, and if it is currently assigned to a vehicle it will tell you the make and model, as well as giving you the MOT history.
If it is not in use, then a message like the below will be displayed...

This could mean one of three things:

  • The registration is still available for purchase (in which case you would expect to find it on a number plate website)
  • The registration has already been purchased and is currently being held on a retention certificate rather than a vehicle
  • The registration has never been issued

Although this is not fool proof as it only gives you information about registrations that are on vehicles, it is one way of potentially trying to track down a number plate.

Search for the registration on Google

Another way we can suggest finding out more information about a plate and if it's available or ever been issued, would be to type the registration (with it's correct spacing) into Google in quotation marks.
The quotation marks are important as they tell Google to only look for exact matches of the query you have entered.
If we use "MAG 1C" as an example, you can see that typing it into Google gives us some information about it.
This is a well-known and documented registration so there are lots of articles written about it, however, this technique can potentially work for any registration, with Google finding old for sale adverts on websites, or posts on social media or forums referencing the registration.
And if Google throws up random results (for example a car part number could contain the same characters in the same order as your desired registration), then simply add the words number plate after the quotation marks e.g. "MAG 1C" number plate. 
Again, this isn't fool-proof, but it will get you closer to knowing if a registration exists and is out there somewhere.

Search previous DVLA auction results

Another tip is to try searching the DVLA's previous auction results. This will tell you if the registration was sold at auction in the past, and if so, how much for and when.

Simply enter the registration here and see if you get a hit.

Register interest with a number plate dealer

Many number plate dealers have large databases of number plates and their owners, so it's worth getting in contact and seeing if they can source you a registration, or leaving your details with them if there is a particular combination that you are after that isn't currently available. 

Set up alerts on classifieds sites

Classifieds sites like ours and even auction sites like eBay allow you to save searches, and be notified when new number plates that match your search criteria are listed. Whilst this won't get you an immediate result, you could be the first to know if the plate ever does get listed for sale.


These techniques are the only real ones we know of to check if a registration is out there, but in truth, there could be registrations sat on retention somewhere that even these tips won't help you to find. The only real way to know about those would be if you worked for the DVLA, however, they will not release this information to the public due to GDPR.

We hope that this short guide helps you in your search for your perfect registration!

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