/ Motoring

Why pay more for private number plates?

Car number plate

Walk into a car showroom and buy a new car and, chances are, it will have number plates. So why pay thousands of pounds just for the privilege of choosing some different letters?

Number plates are free. Whether you buy a new or used car, it already has number plates attached, registered and paid for. So why go through the rigmarole of ditching these for new plates which may or may not spell your name?

‘Rude’ plates banned

The DVLA recently published a list of banned ‘14’ plates for cars sold from March 2014 onwards. These so-called ‘rude’ number plates include things like ‘BU14SHT’. Older plates for the chop have included ‘PU63RTY’ (not a rude word last time I checked) and ‘LU63FER’.

These childish plates got me thinking about the whole concept of private number plates. People normally pay for anonymity, so why spend more to emblazon an often gross misspelling of your name on your car or a supposedly witty statement?

It’s now easy enough to get personalised clothing and you don’t see people walking around with their name misspelt on a t-shirt. So I don’t understand why you would go out of your way to buy something that doesn’t correctly spell your name on your car. I’m sure there are a few very wealthy people who managed to bag properly spelled plates, but most have abominations like ‘CHR15’ and ‘ST3V’ – hardly impressive.

High price for exclusivity

What stumps me most though is the enormous amounts people are willing to pay. If you’re called Rob and have a predilection for the number 11 and letter E, just £24,999 could buy you the perfect plate – ‘ROB 11E’. And for a plate which apparently spells ‘OOOH ALEX!’ (it’s actually ‘0004 LEX) that’ll cost you £4,500… and a similar amount in subsequent opticians’ appointments and reading lessons.

Worry not, if you have less to spend; £850 is enough for ‘RYD 13Y’. Any guesses? Nope, that supposedly spells ‘RIDE BY’ and according to the advertiser, it ‘will suit coach operatives’. Standards of literacy in the UK may reportedly be dropping, but surely they haven’t dropped that far…

With the cost of fuel, car insurance, road tax and maintenance, owning a car is never cheap. So I find it baffling that people happily go to the hassle and expense of purchasing private plates. Are private plates worth the cost for you? Would you pay to have your initials, name or nickname stamped across your number plates?


The government should make as much as possible out of selling these special number plates to the highest bidder. The money could go towards fixing the roads, helping making our roads safer for cyclists and many other worthwhile purposes.

I would also like to see reissue of old numbers from vehicles that were scrapped decades ago. No one needs a personalised number plate but some are worth a fortune. It would be a great way of raising money without taxation.

DeepCover says:
13 December 2013

I too would like to have the option of reusing an old number from a car I owned decades ago, just for sentimental reasons. It’s difficult to see what the reason for not allowing this might be. Anyone with inside knowledge?

Martin says:
13 December 2013

That is exactly what the Government does: make money from the sale of number plates. The DVLA has regular auctions.

Who cares? Well the people who buy them. Individuals in this country can thanks to the Government. Who wants to live in North Korea?

It is choice. Some people buy paintings.

It would have been a more interesting article if it had been informative. What happens when the car is written off in an accident?

PeterM says:
24 December 2013

I agree with the principle of re-issuing ‘old’ VRM’s. In this technological age where so many different options are available, then a unique, previously used but now out of use number must be within our reach. I am surprised that DVLA have not latched onto this. However, I strongly disagree with DVLA selling plates and encouraging use and spacing which then attracts a fixed penalty notice from a ticket writer!

Of course no one needs personalised number plates, but we buy lots of things we strictly don’t need. If we choose to do so, why knock it? My first car was GGK 50 on a Ford Anglia – wish I’d still got it. I remember spotting A1 on a Jag (I think) many years ago. Also about the same time saw PEN 15 – in the days when we were less precious. At least we profit from these sales through DVLA presumably. You can get plates for around £400 all-in – this includes altering the car details on the data base, a new log book, Mot certificate, tax disc.

In the UK, money spent on personalised number plates is not expenditure but an investment. The value of the number plate usually goes up by much more than inflation and bank interest rates. Therefore they represent a way of preserving capital rather than a way of losing capital.

Talking of rude plates, a few years ago I remember seeing “PEN 1S” on a car in a television documentary and the owner used to receive a lot of abuse, but that number plate seems to have since been withdrawn. You can check what type of car a particular number plate is on at http://www.mycarcheck.com for example.

The withdrawn registration number you mention would suit a member of staff at Conway Stewart. 🙂

Tío says:
9 December 2013

I subscribe to “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

However some people pay £millions for exotic cars, jewellery and art simply for their own pleasure in owning or having available to them whenever they wish. Whilst these are assets rather than the transient pleasure of gambling, world cruises, ice or desert hotels none do I think are reprehensible in that they are mostly the excesses of major benefactors and tax contributors.

Beware the spender of others’ money.

Keren says:
9 December 2013

There are some good reasons as well. The local police know me and my number plate so at a glance can tell if the correct person is driving it. Also if a recognisable plate is involved in an incident people will remember it as evidence…..

Phil meade says:
9 December 2013

I bought my first new car for my wife for her 55th birthday. The plate was her initial and her birthday. Cost of special number £250. My own first and only new car bought 6 years ago and my initials or birthday date 31JUL were about £800. I chose my Greek nameday date which is the same as my wifes birthday with the following initial.
The best number plate I have seen was on a lorry delivering egg boxes – EGG130X also a Ferrari in Swindon many years ago 1MOK. If it keeps people happy, and helps the cost of running the DVLA I am all for it. I believe a Proctologist has A55MAN!!

I have a personalised number plate – useful for my volunteer work

Don’t have one but might consider from an investment angle. But isn’t there a degree of hassle when you come to change vehicles?

Otherwise up to people what they spend their money on.

There’s an £80 fee to register the number plate on to another vehicle, but that’s a small amount compared to road tax and the cost of buying a car. For investment purposes, you can keep a number plate on retention (without being on a vehicle) for something like £25 per year.

Each to his own I as the saying goes. Definitely a good source of income for the DVLA as a fee has to be paid each time the plate is moved from car to car. Like anything there are good ones and really bad ones. Have seen matching pairs of cars on driveways with ‘NOT 1’ & ‘BUT 2’ as well as ‘2B’ & ‘NOT 2 B’… Pimlico Plumbers have some amusing one’s on their vans too.

I think the world would be less interesting without such individualities.

It is not permitted to adjust the spacing of letters. Perhaps there is a case for leniency because this can help make registrations more memorable, which could be helpful in the event of an accident or crime.

korhomme says:
13 December 2013

A physician had SAY 99

Fiona Richmond had FU 2

I prefer to remain anonymous.

Norman says:
13 December 2013

Like most others I see no point whatsoever in sporting a private number plate. The initial cost + transfer costs and hassle each time a new vehicle is purchased makes it unattractive to say the least. This is undoubtedly nothing more than an ego trip for most.

I would not want a private number plate either, but I see it as a harmless bit of fun that can be used to generate some money for the government. Fixing some potholes would be one way of spending this money.

Norman, don’t know where you get the “most others” opinion from. Almost every post here sees no problem with them.
Lots of purchases might be regarded by some as “ego trips”, but each individual can spend their disposable income as they wish.
Remember when we had GPO on the telephone vans, and London buses had LT? There was a furore years ago when the water companies were privatised, and H20 plates were bought up. Perhaps we should make certain groups of people display appropriate plates – MP ### ##, for example.

Not a good idea for our MP’s to advertise their presence. The plebs would have a great time with eggs and flour. Maybe it is a good idea!

Jonathan C says:
16 December 2013

The people who buy these plates think that it says something about them; I think it does too, but probably not what they think…

Louis says:
1 September 2014

I purchased my first plate for my 20th birthday and im looking to buy another, i don’t see anything wrong with wanting to be different, god if everyone acted the way these people are on this post the world would be a boring place with no originality, nobody is forcing you to buy a plate!

H1PPY is on a VW Bettle
D1RTY is on a Bentley near me
J1SUS is on a Mercedes
F1SHY is on a Land rover

Few of the best I’ve come across anyway..

I you going to buy one… look for a good company like http://www.netplates.co.uk

Gary Loftus says:
9 March 2017

Some people choose branded clothing, the latest (soon forgotten) restaurant, a holiday destination of their dreams, a handbag for £2,000, some even buy a Ferrari, a Rolls Royce ……… me, a mere ‘ordinary’ person, invested less than a weeks wages in a forever personal plate …… get over it !!

These were OK years ago for a few nobs on their rollers, but it’s now at the stage where they are mostly indecipherable – the people that sell them have to spell out the mostly tenuous connection to the name or word they are supposed to represent.
I think that like BMW’s, they are mostly popular with the tattooed people…

Alistair Bartlett says:
21 February 2021

I own a private plate. It consists of my first initial, my date of birth and the first initials of my sister, my mother and my late father. I chose it because I wanted something family orientated, and as far as I’m concerned family is important. I like it and I couldn’t give a monkies what Norman or others of his ilk think!!

From recent Which? reliability surveys a number plate featuring AA or RAC might suit a Range Rover owner.