Whether driven by personalization preferences or investment foresight, private number plates have become highly sought-after in recent years, commanding staggering prices in some cases.
The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) has disclosed to This is Money the ten most expensive plates it sold in 2023, offering insight into the evolving landscape of private registration preferences.
2023 marked the conclusion of an era in private plates, as the last in-person DVLA auction occurred in October. With the shift to exclusively online auctions, the DVLA now holds six sales each year.
Topping the list at a DVLA auction in 2023 was 'H1 NDU,' fetching an impressive £112,010 (excluding fees and taxes). While the six-figure price might not be entirely surprising, the top 10 list for 2023 revealed interesting trends.
The dominance of private plates featuring the letter 'O' was notable, with half of the most expensive registrations following this format, reflecting a prevailing trend in the current private plate market. Two 'DEO' plates, '1 DEO' and 'DEO 1S,' secured spots on the list, highlighting the popularity of sequences involving letters and the number 1, historically known to achieve higher prices.
Jon Kirkbright, sales director at Platehunter, noted that 2023 did not deliver exceptionally high-performing DVLA registrations compared to the past five years. He attributed this to the lower quality of available stock, pointing out that the best plates were sold when DVLA auctions began.
Comparatively, the top 10 most expensive DVLA plates of all time exceeded £150,000, with the highest-selling plate being '25 O,' which reached £400,000 in 2014. Despite 2023's somewhat subdued performance, the private plate market in the UK remains robust, valued at over £2 billion as of that year.
In terms of sales volume, 17,823 registrations were sold in DVLA auctions in 2023, with buyers collectively spending almost £49 million, including fees and taxes. Platehunter experienced a 25% increase in turnover by the first 17 days of January compared to the previous year.
Looking ahead, Kirkbright anticipates 2024 to be a record-breaking year for the second-hand plate market, as demand continues to rise, and sellers command higher prices for their plates.
Reasons for Spending Big on Private Plates:
Names, Initials, and Words: Plates spelling out names, initials, or words are popular for expressing individuality or as investments, with certain combinations expected to appreciate.
Investment: Private number plates are attracting investors due to higher returns compared to traditional investments like wine, watches, jewelry, classic cars, and art.
Covering Up a Car's Age: Private plates can conceal a car's age, allowing owners to avoid displaying a DVLA plate that identifies the vehicle's year.
Power Symbols: Private plates resembling status symbols, success, money, or influence are sought after for projecting desired self-images.
Sentimentality: Some individuals view private plates as a means of commemorating special dates, events, or references to loved ones, making them willing to pay significant amounts for personalized combinations. Photo by Oxymoron, Wikimedia commons.