Private Licence Plates - Are They Worth It?

2nd December 2015

Buying your own personalised licence plates has been a way to uniquely accessorise your vehicle for just over 25 years. As each individual licence plate is exclusive to the car, there has been an inherent contest for the ideal registration, the end result being some motorists paying astronomical amounts. Since 1989 the DVLA has raised an estimated £2 billion in auctions with over 3 million plates sold.

The highest price paid for a licence in the UK was a whopping £518,000 by classic car dealer John Collins back in November 2014 for the registration '25 O'. Why '25 O'? So he could fix it to his Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta, the car previously owned by Eric Clapton.

Before '25 O' the previous record was held by Bradford businessman Afzal Khan, who bought the registration 'F 1' for £440,000 in 2008. 6 years later he put the registration up for sale for a staggering £10 million, but the advert for its sale has since been taken down. For those that are surprised that he could even think about putting a registration up for sale for that much clearly aren't aware that Mr Khan had previously turned down a bid of £6 million for the licence plate.


Most Expensive Licence Plates in the UK
Registration Price
25 O £518,000
F 1 £440,000
S 1 £404,000
1 D £352,000
M 1 £331,000
VIP 1 £285,000
51 NGH £254,000
1 RH £247,000
KR15 HNA £233,000
K1 NGS £231,000


World Record Registration

Half a million pounds for a number plate sounds like a lot but it is nothing in comparison to the £7 million paid for the registration that is simply the number '1'. The licence was bought by Saeed Khouri from Abu Dhabi. His reason for getting the plate: "...because it's the best number... I bought it because I want to be the best in the world".

The purchase of '1' surpassed the previous world record of £3.4 million for the registration '5' bought earlier on the same day by Talal Khouri, no relation.

A total of £16.3 million was raised on that particular auction day with 90 licence plates sold. Proceeds of the auctions went to a rehabilitation center for victims of traffic accidents.

Egocentric Accessory or Savvy Investment?

At first glance buying a personalized registration, or vanity plate as they are sometimes known, can be seen as just a way to turn heads. To some it may seem that personalized licence plates are for people who have more money than sense. But investing your money in a registration can be more profitable than investing in any bank.

Take Afzal Khan for example, he may have had to pay £440,000 for the licence plate 'F1' but with the right buyer he could receive millions if he decided to sell. Remember that the value of an item is only what someone else would be willing to pay for it.

"Private plates are an investment. I've got 11 and I wouldn't buy them if they weren't. I actively go looking for good plates - the best place to find them is in a posh car park. I leave a note on the windscreen asking the owner to get in touch!" Chris Evans.

The rule with private plates is that, generally, the shorter the registration the higher the price. Plates that resemble names also go for a high price, the popularity of the most common names fetch the highest prices.

Other words that can be made in a registration are always going to attract a particular type of buyer. For example 'F14 MES' was bought in 2001 for £3,500 by a fireman and sold in 2013 to 'Feature Fireplaces' in Harrogate for £7,995.

Comical Plates

Ofcourse the DVLA do not want us to have too much fun when buying a personalised plate. The DVLA has a list which runs for 46 pages of censored licences. Registrations which could be construed as homophobic, religiously sensitive or obscene are not allowed. If you are looking to get a personalised plate and you have one in mind be sure to check this list here (As of March 2015).

Insuring your car with a Personalised Number Plate

When you insure your vehicle you will always be asked what the registration plate is. However it is not always clear if the registration is a private plate.

If you do get into an accident and your car is 'written off' or scrapped the salvage of the vehicle goes to the insurers, which includes the registration. Therefore it is important that if you want to keep your private plate you will need to make the insurers aware. It is best that you request your insurers to acknowledge in writing that the rights of the number plate will remain with you in the event of a 'write off' or theft when the vehicle is not recovered.

Also remember that if you own an old vehicle with a distinctive registration it may be worth something to someone else. Make sure that you insure your classic car with the correct policy.

Do you own a private plate? Is it something personal to you or do you see it as an investment? Please leave your comments below:

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