If you take even a quick look at a website selling private registration numbers or one of those big adverts with hundreds of numbers for sale we usually skip past in the Sunday newspapers, it soon becomes apparent that some numbers can be extremely expensive. It’s probably obvious to most people that the very earliest numbers such as A1 would be wildly expensive as most things become more valuable over time, but two numbers of the same length can sometimes vary massively in price.
Here we’re going to look at why some number plates are so expensive, why some seemingly similar private plates can be priced very differently, and how you can find out how much a private plate you want might cost and whether it’s available.
Every Private Plate is Unique
It would be really easy to just say the normal laws of economics apply to the pricing of private registration numbers and it’s all down to supply and demand. But if that were true then every plate derived from the same numbering system would cost the same because every number is unique. One of the great things about buying a private number plate is the fact every single one is entirely unique and you’re not going to see a plate identical to yours on another vehicle. That would be like going to a party and finding someone else dressed in exactly the same clothes as you, but with a private plate that simply can’t happen.
If every private plate is a one-off – which it is – then why do some cost less than £200 while others can be valued in the hundreds of thousands of pounds or even more? The answer is it largely comes down to how much someone is prepared to pay for a certain number and how many other people would like to have that particular plate.
Generally speaking, shorter number plates are more expensive than longer ones but there are no hard and fast rules where the open market is concerned. Any private registration number is worth however much someone is prepared to pay for it in the open market, but where the number comes from can make a huge difference to how much you could end up paying.
If you buy a number from the DVLA that’s never been issued before, it probably won’t cost as much as one from a dealer or private seller that’s already been issued. Numbers that have been bought previously have obviously been in demand and the more in-demand and more desirable they are the more they go for.
Rarity Can Play its Part
Although every registration number is different there is a way that rarity enters into the valuation private plate, and that’s because some previous numbering systems have been exhausted and there are no more unused combinations available.
The very first numbering system for UK registration plates dates back to 1903 and they used a single or double letter prefix followed by a number between 1 and 9999. The prefix didn’t allow every letter of the alphabet to be used as these single and double letter prefixes actually referred to the issuing region, where A was London, C was West Yorkshire, FP was Rutland, and so on. That limitation of the issuing region prefixes is then compounded by the fact there were only nine of each if you wanted one with a single number following the prefix, 99 nine of each if you want one followed by two numbers, and so on.
The whole reason we’ve been through different numbering systems is that earlier ones ran out of available combinations as more and more vehicles went on the road. The fact you can’t go to the DVLA and create a new registration number like one letter and one number or other certain combinations from earlier systems means those numbers have an element of rarity contributing to their price.
Even though the limited availability of certain combinations plays a big part in the price of a private number plate, the biggest contributing factor to selling prices is desirability and how much someone wants a certain plate. A1 is obviously desirable as it was the very first number issued, but F1 will probably always be valued far higher than something like C1 as F1 is obviously the common abbreviation of Formula One.
You can see why F1 would be as sought-after as it is because a lot of people associated with Formula One are very rich and there are a lot of them, and there are also plenty of fans of Formula One who’d probably like to have that plate too.
Desirability and demand are what mostly drives the price of private plates. You could have something like a two-letter prefix followed by a two-digit number that doesn’t appear to mean anything significant. However, if you have two people to who that combination is significant and they both have a lot of money, the price will go up and up until one of them decides it’s gone too high for them.
There could be something that means a lot to you that doesn’t mean much to anyone else that you can have on a private plate and then you could get a bit of a bargain. If your initials were XKP for example, you probably won’t be competing against too many others for that combination. However, if your name is TOM, DAN, ANN or something like that then there is obviously going to be a lot of demand for those.
As well as names and initials, people also want numbers that appear to spell other things such as brands, company names, occupations and interests. You probably don’t need to be an expert to realise that BMW or VW will make a private plate relevant to a lot of people who own a BMW or Volkswagen and therefore push prices up.
How Do You Value a Private Plate?
If you want to know how much a private plate will cost you can enter your desired combination into the DVLA website and if it’s available you’ll be given a price. If a number has already been issued, however, you are then at the mercy of whoever already owns it. If someone owns a private registration number they can sell it for as much as they can get for it, but you can also get an idea of what it might cost you if you can find the owner by looking at other similar combinations that are already being offered for sale online.