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Posted by Sean Cooper

Even if you’re aware that you can go online and buy registration numbers from the DVLA that have not been issued before, did you know that the DVLA also runs two types of auctions where they sell what are generally considered to be the most sought-after numbers? The two types of auction are the Venue Auction and the Timed Online Auction, and this is a guide to how they work.


What is a DVLA Venue Auction?


A DVLA Venue Auction is exactly what its name suggests, which is a live auction held at a physical venue where people can attend and bid in person. The venue locations vary and they are advertised well in advance, and the whole thing is run along the lines of a traditional auction.

Private registration numbers that are to be auctioned off by the DVLA will be advertised well in advance of the sale with an auction calendar that can be found on the DVLA’s website. These auction sales work in the same way as any other regular auction, which is by interested bidders registering in advance of the sale and then bidding on the lots they are interested in when they come up.

With these live auctions, bidders are normally encouraged to attend and bid in person although it is also possible for bids to be submitted online or via telephone and the DVLA issues tutorials on how this can be done.

Live auctions for anything you’re interested in can be a lot of fun, even if you’re not actually intending to buy something yourself. Anyone who loves cars ought to attend a car auction at least once in their life just to experience it and these DVLA number plate auctions can be just as entertaining. However, it’s easy to get carried away and pay too much or buy something you don’t actually need at an auction, so have a good think about what you are prepared to pay and what you want to buy before you attend a sale and risk getting carried away.

What is a DVLA Timed Auction?



The only things a DVLA Timed Auction has in common with a DVLA Venue Auction are numbers plates being sold and them eventually being sold to the highest bidder. Apart from that, these two types of auction couldn’t be much more different.

For a start, with a DVLA Timed Auction, there is no physical auction venue to attend whatsoever. It’s not a mix of physical bidding, online bidding and telephone bidding; the whole thing is done exclusively online. Although once the auction starts there is live bidding, it doesn’t jump up in large increments like traditional auctions where a bidder might try to intimidate others and put them off bidding by upping the ante with a large bid.

At these timed auctions, the current price increases in £10 increments until the maximum bid amount is reached. Bidders submit the maximum amount they are prepared to pay for the private number they are interested in, but if they get outbid they are then sent a text message or email to inform them and offer the chance for them to increase their maximum bid if they wish to do so.

What are “Sliding End Times?”


If you have any experience of bidding in online auctions such as eBay you may well have come across and been infuriated by the practice of “sniping,” but these DVLA Timed Auctions have a way of preventing auction sniping called “Sliding End Times.”

Sniping is where some bidders use special software that allows them to automatically bid in online auctions incredibly quickly in the last seconds to try and stop other bidders from having time to react and outbid them. For example, you could see an item stuck at £210 for a couple of days in an online auction only to be bid up to double that or more in the last 30 seconds or so. This is because multiple bidders are using sniping software and as a human being you have little or no chance of reacting quickly enough unless your bid is higher than the “snipers” have set their software to bid up to.

The way DVLA Timed Auctions avoid this practice is to use sliding end times. This where the end of an auction is set for a certain time, but if any bidding activity happens inside the final 30 minutes the end time of the auction is delayed by a further 30 minutes. In theory, this could extend the auction almost indefinitely if bidding continues, but eventually, the auction will get to an amount where nobody is prepared to go any higher and the bidding will stop and the highest bidder will finally get their private number plate.



When you find a number plate you want to bid on you can bid any amount you like above the starting price but bids must be in increments of £10 as no bids in pence will be accepted. The current highest bid will be displayed but you won’t be able to see what other bidders’ maximum bids are.

The starting price is the minimum amount the DVLA is prepared to sell that particular registration number for, although these prices don’t include VAT, the buyer’s premium (also VAT-applicable) and the assignment fee. If you don’t know how much is a fair or expected price for a particular number you can get an idea by looking up what similar plates have gone for at previous auctions by using the DVLA’s auction sold facility.

Can You Get a Bargain?


At some auctions, you can grab yourself an absolute bargain on occasions, but it’s going to be tough to get a good number plate from a DVLA auction for a really low price. There’s plenty of data out there to show what certain number plates are worth, depending on how many characters they have, their rarity and likely demand. The DVLA has this and so do licence plate dealers, so most of the time plates will go for roughly the expected price or even more if someone with deep pockets wants that one in particular.

If you win an auction you are required to pay all related fees within five working days, and if a plate hasn’t had a bid at the starting price it will be declared “unsold” and it may be included in a future auction.