Personalised number plates (also known as private number plates) are a really popular way to add some individual flair to your car. In 2017 alone, over £100 million was spent on personalised number plates in the UK.
A lot of people are willing to dig deep to be different. The most expensive number plate ever bought in the UK cost £518,000 - you could (almost) buy a modest one-bed house in London for that! The plate was ‘25 0’ and bought for a Ferrari 250SWB once owned by Eric Clapton. Rock on.
Got a few quid saved away? Why not take inspiration from the five most expensive plates ever bought in the UK:
But don’t worry! You don’t need to be a millionaire to buy a personalised number plate - some of them cost as little as £250. The price depends on what you want and how unique it is. Fewer digits and popular options tend to be more expensive.
By law, every car in the UK has to have a licence plate displayed at the front and back. And there are some rules you need to stick to: they must be reflective with no background patterns, must have black characters on white for the front plate and black characters on yellow for the rear plate.
Standard plates are a mix of numbers and letters in a special format that shows when and where the car was registered. The DVLA (the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) changes this pattern every once in a while. The current format is two letters (the region where your car was first registered), two numbers (the year it was issued), followed by three random letters.
If you don’t have the right plates on your car, you could fail your MOT and be fined £1,000.
By the way: motorbikes only need to have a number plate attached at the back.
There are lots of private companies selling personalised number plates – also called ‘cherished’ number plates – but a good place to start is with the DVLA.
You can search for any number plate you want on the DVLA’s online database. It will bring up a list of similar plates that are available and how much they cost. The DVLA also holds personalised number plate auctions where you can bid against other buyers for a specific number plate – usually the more popular ones.
Whoever you buy from, you’ll need the right paperwork to go with it: a V750 certificate of entitlement, or a V778 certificate of retention. With one of these and your car’s VC5 log book in hand, you can transfer the registration to your car immediately on the UK government website, or by posting your documents to the DVLA, which takes a few weeks.
Once you’ve transferred the registration to your car, make sure you update your insurance company with your new number plate details. Some insurers charge a small admin fee to make this change, but you must tell them or your policy could become invalid.
In general, car insurers charge more for cars with modifications, but most insurance companies don’t count personalised number plates as a modification. So, chances are it won’t affect your insurance costs – but do check with your insurer to make sure.
If you have a valuable and sought-after number plate, you might be interested in getting it covered separately under your policy. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of insurance companies willing to do this, because the risk of theft is just too high.
Number plates are some of the most commonly stolen items off cars. If your number plate is ever stolen, report it to the police straight away, and tell your insurer too. Criminals could try to use your plates to cover up their own and then go on a crime spree. You don’t want to be implicated!
It’s also worth remembering that if your car is stolen, your insurance company becomes the legal owner of your car and its registration plates. To make sure you can transfer your cherished plates to a different car, ask your insurance company for a letter confirming that they have no interest in them. If your car is ever stolen, this means you’ll still be the legal owner and transferring them will be more straightforward.
Unique and novelty number plates can attract the attention of thieves as they are so easy to steal. You can buy special theft-resistant number plates that break apart if someone tries to remove them from your car.
On the other hand, a personalised number plate can make your car stand out from the crowd, and this extra attention could put thieves off stealing your car altogether.
Bottom line? Personalised number plates are as popular as ever. There aren’t many downsides to having one, but don’t be disappointed if your ideal plate is already taken and unavailable – or just too expensive to afford.
Personalised plates are a fun choice but insuring your car is a must.
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