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 popular any name or initial it contains is: You are more likely to get good money for a registration plate that spells out a name like 5UE than you are with a more unusual name, simply because there is more demand for Sue (or Dave or Mel) than there would be for Hector, Primrose or Zebedee
How valuable the letters and numbers the plate contains are: in terms of numbers, lower numbers with fewer digits tend to be the most valuable when reselling personalised number plates, making BOB 1 more valuable than BOB 379. Sequential numbers (123, 456 etc.) and repeated numbers (444, 88) are more popular than random combinations, and special occasion numbers like 18 and 21 can also boost a number plate’s value a little. In terms of the letters in a number plate, the likelihood of a series of letters being a name or a person’s initials increases the value of the plate, too.
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