The UK stereotype that personalised plates are an excessive purchase for the rich is fading. Custom plates are becoming more affordable and accessible, pushing away the designer price tag and becoming not only a profitable investment but a unique gift for drivers.
Once a novelty item for the wealthy, their continued presence and increase in sales shows their increase in popularity. The sales of personalised number plates has made the DVLA an estimated £2 billion since 1989, encompassing over four million individual numberplates.
The downside of personalised plate popularity
This increase in popularity is not without its drawbacks. Most recently, there has been public outrage at Antrim & Newtownabbey Council after it was revealed around £400 of taxpayer’s money had been spent on a personal number plate for the mayoral car. This has been slated as an unnecessary expense, calling the purchase excessive ‘vanity spending’.
Yet, for others, personalised plates are a great way to add individuality to their vehicles, with thousands of drivers regarding them as a statement of originality.
The cost of original plates
There is a price for originality, with the most spent on a number plate in the U.K being £518,000 for the registration ‘25 0’, whilst the World Record for money spent was for the number ‘1’, sold at £7.25m to businessman Saeed Adbul Ghaffar Khouri.
These are the top plate prices, but not all cost such extreme amounts. Generally, the shorter the plate, the higher the cost.
Why? It’s mainly due to popularity. If you are looking for a common name, such as Smith or Jones, the price will be much higher because other people are also seeking the same common name. Surnames cost more than first names again due to the surnames being more common, whilst a first name can allow for shortening or nicknames. If seeking a cheaper option, investing in a longer plate with extra digits will reduce the price, for example on Click4Reg, ‘MEG 21’ will cost just under £20,000, yet ‘ER02 MEG’ will only be £173.
Are number plates worth it?
Alternatively, buyers can attend one of the DVLA auctions, which are held at various points throughout the year, selling plates to the highest bidder.
For many, the purchase of a plate is an investment to sell on at a later point because their value tends to increase with time. One example is the registration ‘1 SAJ’, which was originally bought for £3,300 in the 1990s but is now valued at £30,000. If a more popular plate is purchased, it is more likely to create a higher profit in future years than an obscure combination.
For others, it’s a joy to own a plate unique to them, with initialised plates having a deeper residing meaning, enhancing the the car ownership experience. Individual registrations also have an association with status, as, according to figures by the AA, 13% of bosses and well-off drivers own a personalised plate.
For many drivers, owning an initialised number plate is a mark of success, conveying a positive image that they are both good and successful at what they do. Similarly, dateless (or vintage) number plates, only issued until 1963, are particularly popular because they do not carry a vehicle’s registration date, effectively camouflaging a vehicle’s age.
It is becoming a way for people to make a car their own without damaging the price of the vehicle. Moreover, plates are also given to family members or loved ones, creating a sentimental value to the plate for the recipient. A personalised plate may look like an expense, but there are sensible justifications behind them. Whether it is for individuality and sentimentality, or as a future investment, to categorise them as vanity seems an unfair association.