Private number plates
From modest beginnings the private number plate industry has evolved over the years into a juggernaut.
What might have been more than 2 decades ago an ephemeral fashion statement befitting only to those that enjoyed boasting their ego and status symbol, is now an essential part of motorized Britain. Long overcoming the niche market domain, this industry has become a fundamental part of everyday life, creating almost a cult-like halo around itself.
Regardless of moniker – vanity plate, personalised registration or simply ‘number plates‘ – that square or rectangular backdrop onto which numbers and letters are etched out, proudly identifies a vehicle and separates it from a crowd of sameness around it. From a relatively shy start, over 25 years ago, this domain, handled initially only by the DVLA and later on also by approved resellers, has experienced an unprecedented boom, taking by storm the nation and returning an incredible £2 billion to the state budget. Over the course of time, more than four million registrations have been made, and that number continues to rise incrementally, to the tune of roughly five per cent every subsequent year.
The reasons for purchasing a personalized vehicle registration are varied, and range from the desire to be unique by standing out from the crowd, making a present to a loved one or simply as an investment. Buyers can either attend the annual auctions organized by the DVLA or choose to purchase their plate through the means of an approved reseller. In the first case, vehicle registrations are sold to the highest bidder, while in the latter, the customer itself can browse through an immense database numbering millions of potential combinations, to seek what will ultimately become a prized possession.
Prices for a private plate range from a few hundred pounds, for more simple letter and number combinations, to more than half a million. Sounds incredible? Not anymore, as the most costly private plate ever sold in Britain by the DVLA is 25 O. Bought by way of auction in November 2014 by John Collins (owner of Ferrari dealership Talacrest in Berkshire) specifically for a Ferrari 250 SWB, for £518,000. Why so much? Because the car cost 10 million and, after all, it’s an investment that could, years into the future, yield significant turnover. Unsurprisingly, this has become a common practice for those with a finer sense in business: presumably desirable plates are purchased, then, at the opportune moment, sold for profit.
In 2015, more than 25 years since the DVLA started auctioning peculiar – as opposed to stock – vehicle registrations – the private number plate industry has bloomed. As the economy has fortified, so did the purchasing power and the desire to stand out; more powerful and luxurious cars were bought and, accompanying them, unique, intriguing and even extravagant plates have been traded.
However, not everybody is driven by a chauffeur, and the trend is not restricted to the affluent only – all types of drivers are showing an interest in a special registration that will attest their distinctive on-road persona.