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".
How close a series of letters or numbers are to a real name of word: if the match quality is high (and the numbers and letters are very convincing in making a popular word), the value of the registration plate will be higher. This means that a match like 5IMON, for the name Simon, will be worth a lot more than a more obscure set of letters and numbers that are not as convincing a match, such as S17 MMM for the name Sam.
The style of the plate: this means establishing if it is a new-style plate, an older-style format or if it is dateless or Irish, for instance. Other options are that it is a prefix-style plate or a suffix-style plate. New-style number plates, which have been produced since 2001, tend to be the least valuable because they are a bit less appealing to some collectors, plus the rule about not having plates that are newer than your car can also come into play, putting people off from buying a newer-style plate for their older car. Prefix-style number plates, which were in production between 1983 and 2001 can be more popular as more vehicles are entitled to have those licence numbers, and they may have fewer characters in total. Suffix-style plates, issued from 1963 to 1983 are relatively rare, which means they can attract higher prices than prefix-style plates and newer designs. Dateless number plates, also known as cherished number plates, were produced between 1903 and 1963 and are nearly always the most valuable number plate configurations; they have fewer digits and their dateless nature means that people can hide the age of their car. Irish number plates are similar to dateless number plates, especially because they don’t have a year identifier. They also tend to be cheaper than other types of vehicle registration plates.
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