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Why are Number Plates so Expensive?

The laws of supply and demand dictate the price of number plates. People want their registration numbers to convey a personalised message or a personal signifier, such as one’s name or nickname. Yet there are only so many ways one can spell a name using the combinations made possible by legislation. This, in conjunction with the fact that older types of number plates are more likely to come in combinations which are significant to people (such as initials, names, nicknames, business names etc.) means that these have come to be known as cherished number plates

These cherished number plates, also known as personalised, private, or custom car registration plates, contain less elements, making it easier to come up with number plate ideas. The price paid for a registration plate is usually directly proportional to the level of demand. Thus, people with more common names such as Oliver, Harry, or George will have to pay more for a plate which spells out their initials or their full first name. 



Photo credit: Dom J/Shutterstock



Why are custom number plates so expensive?

The most expensive car registration plate ever sold in the UK was bought on auction by Ferrari dealer John Collins in 2014 for a whopping £518,000. Collins’ purchase isn’t an outlier though, with many number plates selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds, including ‘VIP 1’ for £285,000 and ‘1 O’ for £170,000. These astronomical amounts beg the question, why are number plates so expensive?

Collins’ number plate, which spelled ‘25 O’, was released during the early history of number plates as part of the first motor vehicle registration scheme. The framework provided for a number from 1 to 9999, preceded by one letter or a two-letter combination.

After this initial scheme ran out of possible combinations, various elements were gradually added to UK number plates. This meant that these early plates became more and more valuable as people vied for registration numbers which included their initials or other short personal signifiers.


Photo credit: james weston/Shutterstock



Cheaper alternatives?

If spending thousands of pounds on a customised number plate is not worth it to you, try using a new style number plate. Even though these contain more elements that older, cherished plates, they can be used to put together longer personalised messages. You can get cheap private number plates for under £200 if you manage to spell out something significant to you using the combinations made possible by current legislation.


Feature image credit: Dom J / Shutterstock

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