Industry sector:

Classic car restorer: Licences


Under pollution control legislation, businesses that engage in vehicle refinishing activities are normally required to hold an environmental permit (in England and Wales) or a pollution prevention and control permit (in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Permits are issued by the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Permit conditions require equipment and procedures to meet specific requirements and conditions. Business premises that have a permit are regularly inspected.

A similar permit system applies to businesses that use waste oil burners. You can find out more about environmental and pollution control permits on the Gov.uk website.

Be aware that premises in Wales which produce 500kg or more of hazardous waste in any 12 month period need to register with Natural Resources Wales.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates the sales of general insurance products. All businesses that sell and administer general insurance products must be authorised to do so by the FCA - either directly or as an 'appointed representative' of an authorised principal. This applies even if no extra charge is made for the insurance. Examples of the types of insurance product covered by this requirement include:

  • extended motor warranties
  • MOT protection insurance
  • tyre insurance
  • some rescue and recovery policies
  • key fob insurance
  • motor insurance

If you wish to carry out MOT testing, you and your premises will require appropriate authorisation from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). An application form from the DVSA must be returned with references and plans of the premises and surroundings. Officers from the DVSA will visit the site to check that the test equipment is functional and correctly calibrated. Further information is available on the Gov.uk website. (All MOT testing in Northern Ireland is carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Agency at their own special test centres.) Be aware that from 20 May 2018 most vehicles over 40 years old (on a rolling basis) are exempt from MOT testing, but they must be in safe roadworthy condition if they are used on public roads. Cars that have been substantially changed must continue to be tested annually.

Note that all vehicle number plate suppliers in England and Wales are required by law to register with the DVLA. You can find out more about registering on the Gov.uk website.

If you want to drive unregistered vehicles - possibly imported classics - which are temporarily in your possession, and/or untaxed vehicles, then you will need trade licence plates ('trade plates'). You will have to apply for these to the DVLA, who will expect you to show that you are a bona fide motor trader. You are only permitted to drive on trade plates for certain purposes - for example test drives, deliveries, and taking a vehicle to another motor trader's premises. Note that trade plates only exempt you from the need to tax a vehicle - they don't exempt it from MOT testing requirements (where applicable) or the need to be properly insured. However, by registering your trade plates with the Motor Insurance Database then the relevant authorities will be able to see that you have an appropriate motor trader's insurance policy in place to cover you. Trade licence plates are valid for a period of between six and 12 months, after which you'll need to renew them if you still need them. A fee is due for applications and renewals. You can find out more and apply for trade licence plates on the Gov.uk website.

Local authorities in Scotland require second-hand dealers - including motor dealers - to obtain a licence or registration to operate. This applies unless dealing in second-hand goods is only incidental to the main business activity. Elsewhere in the UK, some local authorities license or register businesses where second-hand dealing is the main or a significant part of the business and is not just incidental. However, motor vehicle dealers are normally exempt (as are businesses which hold consumer credit authorisation). If you are in any doubt as to whether second-hand dealer licensing may apply to your business, contact your local authority trading standards department for guidance.