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Posted by Sean Cooper

If you pay much attention to UK roads and the vehicles on them you might come to the conclusion that private number plates are more popular than they’ve ever been, and you’d probably be right. While there are many different reasons why people buy and use private plates there’s little doubt they’re very popular and demand for them is actually growing, but why is this?

Is it just because more and more of us are discovering how easy it is to buy and allocate private registration numbers to our vehicles, is it just because people increasingly want to be a little more individual, or is there another reason?



Private Plate Sales Boom


A new registration number (21) came into play on March 1st and that inevitably opens up a whole new batch of available numbers, but sales of private registration numbers have been booming for some time now. At the same time in 2020 more than 5,000 private plates were sold across the UK in the first couple of days after the new plate came in. The DVLA has since confirmed that demand for private plates remained strong throughout 2020 and into 2021, despite the impact Covid-19 has had on new car sales.

Even before the year was over, the DVLA stated that almost 370,000 private reg numbers had been bought through its online service during 2020. Not only is this despite new car sales plummeting, but this was also during a time when fewer drivers were even using their cars due to the massive increase in working from home.

Last year could have been exceptional regardless of how many cars were or weren’t sold or used as both the March and September registration numbers had a 0 in them which allows people to be creative by using it as the letter O to try and spell something out. The 21 plate doesn’t appear to create as many interesting possibilities as 20 or 70, but there’s another good reason why sales of private registration numbers are still booming.

Who Buys a Private Registration Plate?


It used to be the case that while certain people would always want a private plate on their vehicle, plenty of others would never even give it a thought and some people considered the whole private reg thing a little bit “tacky.” That belief by some people that private plates were a little passé appears to be becoming less and less prevalent, however, and sometimes it can even feel like almost everyone is getting in on the act now.

No longer are personalised registration numbers the preserve of Premier League footballers or super-rich celebrities who want to broadcast who actually owns that pink Range Rover or gold-wrapped Bugatti Chiron. The way the car sales market and our driving habits have changed over the last year has made personal registration plates an attractive proposition for a whole new generation of potential buyers.



What’s Changed?


It would be easy to imagine that a massive crash in new car sales would mean less demand for private plates, but quite the opposite is true and there’s a good reason for that. The reason is used car sales have boomed over the last year and the market is still as buoyant as ever, and there’s a better case for putting a private plate on a used car than there is for putting one on a brand new one.

Lots of people will delay the purchase of a brand new car until the next new registration plate comes out so they can have the pleasure of driving around for a few months with the latest registration plate so everyone knows they’re driving a new car. Many will try and tell you that they just wait for the new plate to get a better resale value than if they bought a car on the old plate just before the change, but most just want to be seen to be driving a brand new vehicle with the latest plate.

However, if you buy a car that’s a year or two old or older a personalised registration plate won’t give away exactly how old the vehicle is. As long as you don’t try to put a plate on a vehicle that makes it look newer than it really is, you can put any plate on it you can find or afford.

Let’s say you buy a car that’s on something like a 19 plate in great condition that’s done below average mileage and that model hasn’t been replaced yet by the manufacturer. You could buy a non-dating plate or one from a date that was decades ago and nobody would know whether the car was brand new or a couple of years old.

With more and more buyers turning to used cars for financial reasons and some people abandoning public transport in favour of running an older used car as they only have to commute once or twice a week now, used car sales are booming. Because more and more of us are choosing used cars over brand new ones, more and more of us inevitably want to hide the age of the vehicle with a private registration number.

A Gift Bonanza


Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to buy and own private plates and a lot of people have been waking up to the idea of buying them for other people as gifts. As Christmas approached in December 2020 private plates were being sold at an incredible rate of one every minute, and that adds up to more than 50,000 per month.

Buying a private number plate for someone as a gift is quick, easy and personal, and it’s also a gift you can buy someone that is incredibly unlikely to ever be worth less than you pay for it and one day it could easily be worth more. There aren’t too many things you can say that about in today’s disposable world, and the fact you can even buy one in the early hours of Christmas Day when you’ve forgotten to buy a gift for someone important is just one of many reasons why private registration plates are so great.