Is Your Reg Plate Worth More Than Your Car
When you can afford every new supercar in the world, the only thing that will set you above the rest of your equals is the numberplate – and in Dubai that means shelling out millions.
Due to an enormous increase in demand, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has begun hosting auctions where businessmen compete to adorn their luxury supercars with a much-prized "vanity plate".
The auctions opened in Dubai last week, and in the last three public openings alone the RTA has raised a jaw-dropping $50.3 million dollars.
The most expensive plate ever auctioned off – which simply reads "No 1" – was sold to Emirati businessman Saeed Abdul Ghafar Al Khouri for a staggering $18.6 million in 2008.
Other big buys include "D5", which was purchased for $11.7 million by property developer Balwinder Sahni, and "No 5", which was picked up for a cool $8.9 million by 25-year-old prince Talal Ali Mohammad Khouri.
Single numbers and letters often go for the highest prices, with many bidders keen to secure a plate that's instantly distinctive – a feat that's easier said than done in a city that boasts more than 26,000 millionaires, and where supercars are regularly left to collect dust.
To put these figures in comparison, the average Aussie wishing to bolt custom plates to their car is slugged $448 a year, a fee high enough to put most motorists off even considering it.
But for a certain sect of Dubai-based billionaires, the ownership of a unique numberplate is more than simply having a nice-looking car – it's about showing others that you're richer than them.
Bidders at the RTA auctions will frequently get into heated bidding wars, often raising the price of the number plate far above any vehicle they could hope to put it on.
According to Sultan Al Marzouqi, director of vehicle licensing at the RTA, the auctions aren't just a way for Dubai's businessman to flash their cash – they're also a valuable source of income for the government department.
"Auctions help generate revenue for RTA's never ending infrastructure projects," Al Marzouqi told the Khaleej Times.
"Lots of people buy those numbers for trading or investment purposes, or they are regarded as a statement of individuality - of being unique and special."
Some bidders say that these ultra-expensive plates have special meaning – for instance, Balwinder Sahini says he fought so hard for the coveted "D5" plate because it's his "lucky number".
For others, it’s simply a good investment because while you cannot guarantee the plate will hold its worth, you can guarantee that it will hold its exclusivity.
"It is a good investment I am making and I advise others to put their money in unique numberplates," said entrepreneur Waleed Abdul Khader, after dropping a cool $1.3 million on the plate "018".
“Once you’ve bagged that number plate – if it’s a good one it adds value to it. Some are iconic and will be sought after. Some of the best are simple but exquisite.”
The biggest went for £180,000 in May last year – for KR15 HNA – which was a new British record for the most expensive current style personalised registration plate.
Today, plates with just one number and two letters cost an estimated £60,000, 20 times more than the early 1990s, when drivers could expect to pay somewhere between £3,000 to £5,000.
A DVLA spokesman said: “Many people enjoy displaying a personalised registration number and the general sale and auctions remain extremely popular with the public.
“Since we began selling personalised registrations we have raised around £2.3 billion and all the money raised is passed to the Treasury.”
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