Personalised Number Plates : “A nice little earner”

“The value of your investment can go down as well as up”. This is an all too frequent caveat used in most places where you are invited to invest your money

However, historically, registration marks have always gone up in value and, for an astute buyer, a personalised number plates is as good an investment as any, better than the majority and far more attractive! The owner of a personalised mark has the benefit of using and looking at his/her investment every day of the year, far more exciting than the more conventional financial investment!

Why number plates?

Number plates hold and increase in value because each one is unique. Realistically you’re unlikely to find an interested buyer for a random assigned registration mark (that’s the usual reg plates that we get with a car) but if you purchase a short plate number, one that has a special significance or one that is dateless then you may well be able to make a profit from it in the long-term

What to buy?

The original ‘cherished’ registration marks (those without a year letter at all) have increased in value over the years - some to an incredible extent, making them ideal number plates for investment. Remember, this market covers the years 1904 - 1963 so by definition even the last marks issued are now more than 50 years old. You could liken this end of the market to the antiques market

JP 6998 (issued in the 1940s) sold in 1993 for £1800 and is now worth somewhere in the region of £5500. GH 315 (issued in 1930s) sold in 1992 for £3000 and is now worth about £6500. These examples show the average sort of increase. However, the very rare or short plates have gone through the roof, such as C1 currently valued at over £200,000

Suffix Year-Letter Market

If you want to start investing and you haven’t got £000s to spend, this is where you should start. There has always been a reasonable interest in marks such as SUE 57W. In other words anything spelling a name, but there has really been a marked surge in interest recently

For example KEN 405P sold in 1991 for £600. A similar plate now would expect to retail at above £1500. Another example would be SUE 390W, which sold in 1998 for £850, such a mark (if you could even find one) would now make at least £2000

This also holds true for popular initals. For example JAS, JMW, MAW etc. The shorter the plate the better. Obviously a suffix mark on a new BMW or Mercedes is clearly a cherished plate since suffix marks finished in 1983 so even the later ones are more than 30 years old

Prefix Year-Letter Market

Masses and masses of plates have been sold in this market. This is where the vast majority of people started ‘Making their Mark’. As with any mass market, most of the examples won’t increase in value and only represent a bit of fun for their owners. However, there are some classics like most of the A series. For example A3 JMB purchased for £145 in 1991 would now retail at £2500, representing a fifteen fold increase. Top class A1s and A11s, not to mention M1s, H1s and M12s would all command massive profit margins as well. Prefix plates that are worth investing in represent names -one of the most expensive plates ever sold at auction was K1 NGS at over £230,000!

New Format Market

When the prefix plates ran out in 2000, a new type of mark was invented with the 2 area identifiers at the front plus 2 numbers followed by 3 random letters. The format is a bit unwieldy, but it is possible to make words or names given a bit of imagination

For example, RU55 ELL, LU51 OUS, AM02 OUS, TO02 FAR, MU52 PHY… now over to you

Lastly, you can’t flash your building society book at people, but your special number plate makes a statement about you, while increasing in value at the same time

Be careful

When buying make sure that the seller has a genuine V750 certificate of entitlement or V778 retention document, and that it’s signed by the person whose name is at the top of the certificate

Only the people named on one of these documents can assign the number plate to their car. Be aware there is an £80 transfer charge if a seller is transferring his number plate from his car to yours

To transfer a number plate both vehicles must be DVLA registered, available for inspection and have an MOT certificate

Both buyer and seller must also complete a V317. If you don’t plan on using the number plate on your car, you must pay to retain the registration number. It costs £25 to have the nominee on the retention document changed

Where to buy?

You can buy a number plate directly from the DVLA Personalised Registrations website at any time. The most valuable number plates, however, are likely to be sold at a DVLA auction, which are held six times a year

Each auction has 1,500 desirable number plates for sale, each with a reserve price, where you can bid amongst number plate enthusiasts for a brand new registration number. Find out where and when the next auction is being held here

If you can’t find the number plate you want on the DVLA website you can contact the DVLA directly and make a request. If the number plate you want is available then it may be offered at a future DVLA auction

eBay has a large Cherished Number Section with an active community of number plate sellers and there are many specialist websites that sell personalised number plates, including:

- Regtransfers
- Newreg
- Nationalnumbers

These are all reputable sites and members of the RMI Cherished Numbers Dealers Association

When buying, make sure that you do a price comparison with similar number plates on the market to ensure you are getting a fair deal. Also note that if your car is scrapped whilst the registration number is assigned to it then the number plate is lost and unrecoverable

How much would you expect to pay?

How much you might pay for a number plate will vary according to how desirable the number plate is. On the DVLA website prices start from £250. For example if your initials are MC, prices range from £399 for the number plate V222 MCC, to £999 for MC02 ABE. At the real top end of the price range, the number plate MC 9 would set you back £57,495 at newreg.co.uk!

It might sound easier and cheaper to change your name by deed poll to match your licence plate rather than the other way round, but registration marks can be very good investments. For example in the mid nineties the number plate 1 SAJ was sold for £3,300. Its value today is estimated to be £30,000. Not a bad return!

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