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Are Personalised Number Plates Status Symbols?

Personalised Number Plates Confirmed as Status Symbols Not to be Mocked

They may not improve the performance of a car, but one in 12 UK drivers has invested in a personalised number plate. A new study reveals that it is not vanity, but a sign of status that makes so many people spend their hard-earned cash on a private registration number.

The Importance of Social Status

Most people feel that social status is important and it affects how we act, our career choices, and how we spend our money. When buying a car, the badge is just as important as the performance.

But how much we value our status is difficult to measure as it is usually confused with the value of actually using something like a car. In theory, a Morris Minor can take you from A to B just as effectively as a Ferrari even though the Ferrari might be more fun to drive and is seen as more of a status symbol.

However, a new study in the US has attempted to quantify the value of social status by studying the market prices for number plates in the state of Delaware. From 1941 to 1958, Delaware plates were sequentially numbered, with numbers 1 to 200,000 being issued.

Once issued, the plate became the private property of the motorist and could be transferred to different vehicles, or traded in a secondary market. The plates have no practical or aesthetic value or direct monetary benefit other than allowing the owner to legally drive a car on the road.

Using three separate data sources for the trade in number plates, the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the plates are seen as a status symbol, depending on the number of digits. The fewer the digits and the lower the number the greater its value and the higher the owner’s social status.

In 2008, the number ‘6’ sold for $675,000 (£504,768). The average price for a two-digit plate is more than $180,000 (£134,604), while a five-digit plate averages less than $1,000 (£747.81). It’s compared to paying whatever it takes to be the member of an exclusive club.

The UK’s Personalised Number Plate Market

The DVLA began selling personalised registration numbers in 1989 and in the intervening 30 years has sold around 6 million to the UK’s motorists. In its first year of trading, the agency sold just 658 registrations, while in 2018/19, the number rose to almost 404,000.

As found in the US study, the shortest registration numbers tend to go for the highest money. The most expensive numbers sold by the DVLA include ’25 0’ for £400,000 in 2014; ‘1D’ for £285,000 in 2009; ‘1RH’ for £196,000 in 2008; ‘1O’ for £170,000 in 2009; and 1A for £160,000 in 1989.

Join the Club

As you can see, buying a personalised number gains you membership of an exclusive club, and can also be a great investment opportunity. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to add a private registration number to your car. At CarReg you can find personalised number plates to suit all budgets. The simple to use search function will go through the vast database to find your perfect number.