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The Fickle World of Personalised Number Plates

A plate that is expected to go for big money sometimes gets little interest, while a fairly ordinary number can spark a bidding war between two or more buyers for whom the letter/number combination means something.

Back in 2009, the royal-sounding ‘1 HRH’ was expected to smash the £250,000 record of the time. In the end, it went under the hammer for a disappointing £113,000. At a recent sale in October 2022, the registration ‘8 CH’, which sounds like the letter ‘H’, sold for more than £56,000, 25 times the starting (reserve) price.

The number plate ‘701 LET’ went up for sale at a fairly conservative price, but two plumbers battled over it because it looked like TOILET, which would be a great way to promote a plumbing business. Consequently, the registration sold for far more than expected.

Generally, the market value of a private number plate is fairly easy to establish based on past sales. Any registration number that clearly spells out a name will always be popular. Buyers have paid big money for plates like ‘DAV 1D’, ‘B1 LLY’ and ‘ANN 1E’. Plates that have a single ‘1’ digit such as ‘A 1’, ‘1 DR’, or ‘MBE 1’ also attract high prices.

However, it’s not always easy to figure out what combinations of letter and numbers will appeal to buyers. Some name plates take a bit more imagination, such as ‘CO17 RAD’, ‘TR14 CEY’ or ‘HA12 VEY’. Recently, the registration ‘SOP 71E’ sold for £9,300, presumably to a buyer named Sophie.

Registration numbers that match the make or model of rare or very expensive cars can also attract big money. They can be seen as status symbols, but they also make great investments, which is why they can set the scene for some of the fiercest bidding wars at auctions.

Such a battle resulted in the UK’s most expensive personalised number plate when John Collins, a Glasgow Ferrari dealer, paid a record £518,480 for the registration ’25 O’ in 2014. The plate is proudly displayed on John’s Ferrari 250 GTO but, if he were to sell it, he could expect around £750,000 as a return on his investment.

Number Plate Bidding Wars Can Be Risky

With a number plate auction, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment when there’s a plate you really want. But it’s important to let your head rule your heart and set a limit on what you’re prepared to spend. But, when two or more buyers desperately want a particular registration number, things can get out of hand.

John Collins is the perfect example. As he went into the auction for the ’25 O’ plate, he had imposed a £250,000 limit on himself. But with six other bidders trying to get their hands on the cherished number plate, the bidding got out of hand. Collins said, “You keep telling yourself, ‘One more bid’. And a couple of times I think I said, ‘No, that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m out – okay, one more bid.”

He got the plate for over £500,000 but, once he was in the bidding war, he said he would have gone to a million. He suffered a moment of buyer’s remorse after the sale, thinking “Bloody hell, what are you doing?” But now he thinks the plate looks great on the car, so what does it matter?

Fortunately for you, CarReg has millions of available personalised number plates at affordable prices, and you don’t need to battle against anybody else for them. Search our website for your perfect plates today.