In recent years, personalised number plates have become increasingly popular in the UK. It is a vibrant market that appeals to a wide cross section of people, and because of this, the DVLA estimates that it has generated over £2 billion in revenue through the sale of personalised number plates over the past 25 years.
Of course, personalised number plates do not sell for a fixed amount of money. Instead, highly prized registrations sell for more, while the more common number plates sell for less.
Most personalised number plates sell for hundreds of pounds. In fact, this is one of the reasons why they are so popular — reg transfers are simple to process, they are statements of individuality, and they are relatively inexpensive.
The value of a number plate is not a primary consideration for many people but rather the registration’s personal meaning); however, there are some reg plates that sell for significant sums of money, hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases.
This often occurs if there is a bidding war by more than one person who wants to own the number plate. The type of registration number this is most common with is one that has significant meaning to large numbers of people, but this situation is also very unique. Reg plates that are obvious references to luxury and/or are very short also dominate the list of top-selling number plates in the UK.
The Top 10 Auction Plates
So what are the top selling number plates in the UK? The DVLA has been selling private plates to UK motorists since 1989. During this time, there have been a number of records set, but most of the top 10 have been bought in the past 15 years. Here’s what currently makes the list:
- 25 0 – A Ferrari dealer bought this for £518k in 2014. It is now on a £10 million Ferrari 250 SWB.
- F 1 – A businessman, Afzal Khan, bought this for £440k in 2008 and put it on his McLaren-Mercedes SLR.
- S 1 – This was bought in 2008 for £404k by an anonymous buyer.
- 1 D – Businessman Nabil Bishara bought this plate in 2009 (before One Direction was formed, so it is not a reference to the band) for £352k.
- M 1 – Businessman Mike McCoomb bought this number plate in 2006 for £331k, apparently for his son, who was 10 at the time.
- VIP 1 – Chelsea owner and businessman Roman Abramovich bought this plate for £285k in 2006.
- 51 NGH – This number plate, which looks like the surname Singh, was sold in 2006 for £254k.
- 1 RH – Businessman Robert Haverson bought this in 2006 for £247k.
- K1 NGS – This reg plate, which looks like the word “kings”, was bought anonymously in 1993 for £231k.
- 1 0 – This very simple but striking number plate was bought anonymously in 2009 for £170k.
These are large amounts of money, but they are all small compared to the top-selling number plates found in other parts of the world. Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, has the record for the most expensive number plate ever sold. That number plate was a simple “1”. It was bought in 2008 by businessman Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri for £7.25 million.
How to Buy a Valuable Number Plate
As already mentioned, only a small selection of number plates will go on to sell for huge prices. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a number plate that will rise in value over time though. A number plate can even be an investment as well as being something that holds personal value with you.
Anyone involved in the industry will tell you, however, that it is quite difficult to estimate what a particular number plate will sell for now, let alone in the future. This is because a number plate is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. That said, there are examples of number plates that are worth over 3,700 percent more now than when they were first bought 20–25 years ago.
So how do you ensure you get one that rises in value rather than one that remains static? The trick is to buy something that other people are likely to want. Number plates that show a person’s name or initials are a good example, providing they are not unusual names or initials. Having something that is unusual will not prevent the number plate from rising in value, but it may be more difficult as it will be harder to find a buyer whom the number plate is relevant to and who wants to pay for it.
Next, have a look at what is currently for sale that matches that name or initials. If there are not many or if the one you have is considerably better, you will have a greater chance of the investment rising in value. If, on the other hand, there are lots of other options for people with that name or initials, you may find it harder to sell the one you own.
Other things that can prevent you from getting a high price for a number plate include:
- Number plates that are hard to understand – If people can’t tell what the number plate means after a few seconds of looking at it, you might struggle to get a high price for it.
- Humorous number plates – These types of plates are very niche, so the market for them is smaller than for standard phrases.
- Made up or unique words – There may not be anyone else who wants a number plate with a very unusual word.
If you’re buying something just for you and you have no intention of selling it, you can buy whatever available number plate you want. If, however, you are thinking about potential resale value at some stage in the future, you should always consider whether there will be a market for the registration number. Just being unique is not enough—it also has to mean something. The more people it means something to, the more likely you are to get a good price for it.