Private number plates
Plate of distinction - a private number plate
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PRIVATE number plates have been around for a long time but first started to show up more often in the 1980s and 1990s.

Back then, they were something that millionaires and the ultra-wealthy could afford and were a sign of prosperity. But they were also a little bit ostentatious and people often frowned upon them as a sign of excessive spending and being wasteful.

Fast forward to modern times and more people have private plates than ever before – so have they become respectable?

Private plate records

There are still examples of people paying crazy amounts of money for a desirable private plate. The current world record is held by a plate bought by Abu Dhabi’s Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri who paid a staggering £7 million for plate ‘1’ in 2008.

This beat the previous record from plate ‘5’ that sold for £3.5 million the year before to another businessman from Abu Dhabi. Despite claiming the number had no meaning, he also bought plate ‘55’ at the same time for another £800,000.

Here in the UK, the record for the most expensive plate is a little more modest than these figures. The current five most expensive plates are:

  • ’25 O’ – £518,000 – currently on a Ferrari worth £10 million and once owned by Eric Clapton, the plate was bought in 2014 by Ferrari dealer John Collins
  • ‘F 1’ – £440,000 – owned by Afzal Khan, the plate is currently on his McLaren-Mercedes SLR
  • ‘S 1’ – £404,000 – said to be the first private plate issued in Scotland, the owner is anonymous
  • ‘1 D’ – £352,000 – no connection to the pop group, this plate was sold in Warwickshire before they formed
  • ‘M 1’ – £331,000 – bought in 2006 by Mike McCoomb for his 10-year-old son
  • ‘VIP 1’ – £285,000 – once adorned the Popemobile during a visit to Ireland, the plate was bought by Roman Abramovich, billionaire owner of Chelsea FC

Private plates for the rest

For the rest of us, it is unlikely that we would be looking to invest that kind of cash in buying a private plate for our cars but the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost thousands of pounds. There are two main ways to get a private plate – either you can talk to specialists like Absolute Reg who have a database of existing plates they can offer or you can approach the DVLA to find out if your desired plate is available.

DVLA have a specialist section on their website where you can check if your desired plate is available but also check it is the correct format.

There are some rules regarding what you can put on your car and even the format you use – plus those fancy fonts might look nice in the shop window but shy away from them for your car as the plate needs to be easy to read.

A good investment?

There are plenty of stories where people have made a good profit on their private plate if they decide to sell it. Popular names, dates and locations can all increase in value over time, especially if you catch the eye of a collector.

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Radio DJ Chris Evans is a collector and has been known to leave notes on cars asking if the owner wanted to sell if he spots a plate that he likes.

The shorter the reg, the more valuable it generally is – hence the record being held by single-digit plates. Plates that show names, occupations or even things like football teams in some way can prove popular with collectors and some auction houses will buy the plates from you.

You can even leave the plate to someone after you die but you need to put a provision in your will. Otherwise, inactive plates simply disappear into the archives and cannot be reused in the future. And you never know, your plate could end up making them some money one day!

Private number plates
Perfect plate for the model

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