Pimp Your Number Plate
So why do so many Territorians choose to pimp their plates?
To date, there are more than 20,000 personalised plates registered in the NT, making up 11 per cent of registered vehicles.
Part of the reason there are so many could be because of the price — $185 for a variety of designs and up to seven characters.
In Queensland a seven-character personalised number plate will set you back more than $3,000.
But according to Eduardo de la Fuente, a lecturer in creativity and innovation at James Cook University, the fact personalised plates were relatively inexpensive in the NT was not the only reason they were so popular.
"Through popular culture and culture more generally we invest a lot in motor vehicles [because] they're fetishistic objects," he said.
"They become vehicles, if you pardon the pun, for communicating something about ourselves.
"One way of differentiating yourself from the pack via the purchase of a motor vehicle is to buy something extremely exclusive.
"Most of us however are not in a position to buy a Lamborghini, so we may use other means to customise or personalise a car [and] a number plate is a relatively cheap way of doing that."
When Vivien Joseph moved to Darwin in 2011 she was immediately struck by the number of quirky personalised plates.
"It was the very first thing I noticed; it was like a signature for all of Darwin, a free comedy show on the road," she said.
Over the next four years she collected more than 10,000 number plate images, eventually compiling them into a book.
Ms Joseph's explanation of why more Territorian drivers choose to personalise their plates lies in the surrounding landscape and the identity of those living within it.
"It's so different to everywhere else and there's a freedom of spirit, maybe a greater sense of fun and a greater sense of getting away from the norm," she said.
"I guess they [Australian states and territories] all have their own spirits but the Northern Territory seems to have a sort of special quirky one."
As well as collating pictures, Ms Joseph asked some people to tell her the story behind their number plates.
One of the first stories she was told was of a number plate that read CARPDM.
"It was somebody who'd been unwell and depressed and sad but picked their life up again and chose a starting point by buying a new car and a new number plate," she said.
Other number plates that were among Ms Joseph's favourites were POOGURU — a man who wanted to illustrate he was often in trouble with his wife — and FUNSIZ — a young woman with a sense of humour about her height.
Personalised number plates in the NT, and the reasons people choose the combinations they do, is a fascinating topic for Simon Moss, an associate professor of psychology at Charles Darwin University.
He said while no formal studies had been conducted it was clear that Territorians liked to be unique.
"The [Northern] Territory is about expressing yourself, much more so than other states and territories," he said.
"I think a lot of people move to the NT because they don't want to conform and in some ways the amount of personalised plates here reflects that.
"It's a phenomena I'd like to look into a bit further."
“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.”
Established For Over 25 Years
the Cherished Numbers Guild
- Free transfer service - your paperwork is handled by our trained team
- Over 25 years expertise - long established and trusted company
- DVLA Recognised Reseller - linked directly from the DVLA website
- DVLA Registered Number Plate Supplier - in line with all DVLA & MOT regulations