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Q plates

All vehicles in the UK have a unique number plate that identifies them. But for certain cars, including kit cars and radically modified vehicles, the age and original identity can be tricky to determine.

In these situations, they’ll be issued with Q plates. Here we discuss what Q plates are, what types of vehicles need them and how they’re issued. 

All vehicles in the UK have a unique number plate that identifies them. But for certain cars, including kit cars and radically modified vehicles, the age and original identity can be tricky to determine.

In these situations, they’ll be issued with Q plates. Here we discuss what Q plates are, what types of vehicles need them and how they’re issued. 

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
14 JULY 2023
4 min read
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What do Q plates mean? 

A Q plate is issued to cars whose age or identity are in doubt or unverified.

The “Q” in “Q plate” doesn’t stand for anything, strangely. Some people have speculated that the Q stands for ‘queried’, ‘questionable’ or even ‘quite dodgy’. It’s likely Q is used because it’s one of the few letters that isn’t already used in standard vehicle registrations. 

Standard registration plates can tell you a lot about a car, including its age, date of manufacture and where it was first registered. 

But it’s not always straightforward to figure out a car’s history or origins. In some cases, it might not even have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This is the unique number that identifies your car and is usually stamped onto the chassis. 

If any aspect of a car’s history is unknown, it will be issued with a Q plate registration. 

What types of vehicles need Q-plates? 

Vehicles that might need Q-plates include: 

  • Kit cars. This is a car you’ve built yourself. If all the parts are from a single manufacturer, you should be able to apply for a normal registration number. But if they’re from different sources, you’ll probably need Q-plates.
  • Radically modified vehicles. This is where a car has been significantly altered from its original specification. 
  • Reconstructed classic vehicles. Your car may need a Q number plate if it includes new or replica parts.
  • Former military vehicles. A car that was used by the Ministry of Defence may still be classified or could have been modified, so it will need Q-plates.
  • Self-imported vehicles. A car imported to the UK from outside the EU will get a Q registration if its age or identity is in doubt.
  •  Vehicles without a VIN. This might have been lost if you’ve rebuilt or radically modified your car. Unless you can prove what the VIN was, you can’t keep your original registration. 

How do I get Q plates?

Q-plates are issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). To apply for Q-plates, your car will need to pass an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test.
 
Q plate rules state you need to apply for this test if you’ve: 

  • imported your car 
  • built or rebuilt your car 
  • radically altered your car 
  • reconstructed a classic car

If your car already has an original registration number, it will become invalid once you’re issued with a Q-plate.

Registering your car with the DVLA 

  • You’ll need to pay a registration fee of £55 
  • New cars — you’ll need to complete a V55/4 registration form 
  • Rebuilt or used cars — you’ll need to complete a V55/5 registration form 
  • You’ll need to tax the vehicle 
  • You’ll need a valid MOT certificate (if the car is more than three years old) 
  • If your vehicle doesn’t have a V5C logbook, you’ll need to fill out a V62 form and pay a fee of £25. 

If you’re importing the vehicle 

  • Proof of vehicle approval 
  • Evidence of the import and collection 
  • The original foreign registration certificate (proof of when it was manufactured) 
  • A completed V267 form 

If the car’s been rebuilt or radically altered 

  • You’ll need to complete a V627/1 vehicle inspection report. 
  • Any other relevant documents (e.g. build plans, blueprints etc.) 

Individual Vehicle Approval test (IVA) 

To get your Q plate, your vehicle may need to pass an inspection. The following types of vehicles require inspection: 

  • Imported vehicles 
  • Newly built vehicles 
  • Rebuilt or radically altered vehicles 

The inspection will be either a simple visual assessment or a more comprehensive review. If your vehicle requires a more thorough inspection, you will likely need to provide further evidence and documentation for your vehicle. 

Why is it difficult to insure a Q plate car?

It’s more difficult to insure a Q plate car, because it’s harder for insurance providers and underwriters to calculate the risk associated with the vehicle. If they don’t have its full history to review, they may be reluctant to offer cover. 

To insure a Q plate car, you’ll likely need to provide the insurance provider with as much information and evidence as possible. You’ll also need to agree on the value of the car in question. 

Can I insure a Q-reg car?

You’ll most likely find that mainstream insurance providers don’t provide car insurance for cars with a Q registration plate. And, for that reason, you can’t compare Q plate car insurance with Compare the Market.

To get the right level of cover for your Q registered vehicle, you may need to find a specialist provider or car insurance broker

You’ll be asked to provide as much information as you can about the car, including: 

  • Its make, model and full specification details
  • Details of any modifications, including changes to the engine, bodywork, wheels, brakes and suspension
  • A breakdown of parts used
  • Photos of the car and any associated documents.

Bear in mind that if you have a Q-plate car, it’s likely to cost you more to insure than a standard car.

Frequently asked questions

Can I change my Q-plate for a personalised plate?

No, once your car has been issued with a Q-plate, you can’t remove it from the vehicle. This means you can’t swap it for a personalised number plate, and the plate can’t be sold or transferred between cars. The Q registration must be used for the entire time the car is on the road.

Do Q-plate cars need an MOT?

Cars that have a Q-plate will usually need an annual MOT, just like most other vehicles. That said, if the car is more than 40 years old, taxed as a vehicle of historical interest and not been significantly modified in the past 30 years, it won’t need an MOT.

Are Q-plate cars safe to drive?

At one time, a Q plate would have automatically raised suspicions about the legitimacy of a vehicle. But the introduction of the IVA test has changed all that.

It makes detailed checks of mysterious cars, so if a motor has passed these checks, it should be safe to drive. If you have a self-built car, you could take out specialist temporary insurance. This could cover you to take it to gets its IVA and approval to drive on the road.

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Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

Kate Hughes - Insurance and finance expert

As an award-winning journalist, author and broadcast commentator, Kate has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She’s the former Money Editor for The Independent. Her work has appeared across the UK broadsheets as well as a number of international titles. Kate brings her financial expertise to inform her readers on ways to save money. She’s also written a book. ‘Going Zero: One Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle’ is available now.

Learn more about Kate

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