15 Surprising Stats About Cherished Number Plates

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The very British phenomenon of personalised number plates has been in existence for decades, and over that time it has become an incredibly popular market, with number plates changing hands for astonishing figures. There are plenty of myths, legends, and untruths about personalised number plates - and a lot of interesting and surprising stats, too. With this in mind, we’re going to reveal some of the most surprising facts and stats about personalised number plates for you right now - read on to find out more.


1. There are more than 45 million private number plates

If you want a good indication of the popularity of personalised plates, the total number in existence in the country should give you a massive clue. There are over 45 million of them - more than two for every three people in the country. Most are actually used on cars, while many are bought purely as an investment and never see the dirt and filth of a road for protection. And there are no signs that this trend is starting to die away, sales of private plates are still going up every year.


2.  £518,000 - the price of the UK’s most expensive plate

In 2014, a Ferrari dealer who goes by the name of John Collins bought a number plate bearing the legend ‘25 O’ for a £518,000. It became the highest amount of money paid for a UK number plate, beating the previous record holder - the ‘F 1’ plate bought for £440,000 - by almost an additional quarter. And the significance of the ‘25 0’ plate? It was attached to a Ferrari 250SWB once owned by Eric Clapton and valued at somewhere in the region of £10 million.


3. ‘1’ = The most expensive plate in the world

It makes sense that the world’s most expensive plate is ‘1.’ It makes you think it’s the ultimate number plate - the very first one, perhaps, and certainly the most important. In 2008, a man from a very wealthy Dubai family - called Abdul Ghaffar Khouri - bought the Number One plate for his car, purely because it was ‘the best number’ to own. And the price he paid? A cool £7.25 million.


4.  Private plates are not just for posh cars

According to our research, the majority of people who buy personalised number plates are not owners of expensive, posh cars. In fact, they are mostly used on more mainstream brands such as VW, Ford, Peugeot, and Renault. We think this shows that the old myth of private plates being only for the wealthy are well wide of the mark. The truth is that these fun, personal plates are for everyone, regardless of car, income or class.


5.  A £2 billion + market

Sales are still growing in the personalized number plate market, and research suggests that over the years, a huge amount of money has changed hands - over £2 billion at the last count. As we discussed in the intro, many of these number plates bought over the years have been used on cars, but some of them are used as an investment. In fact, number plates in perfect condition tend to hold their value much better than other investment markets - even during tough times like a recession.


6.  ‘VIP 1’ - always famous

You might have heard of the number plate ‘VIP 1’ - or even seen it on your TV. Why? Well, when the ex-Pope Jean Paul II visited Ireland many years ago, it was made especially for his vehicle. The current Pope doesn’t use it, of course, but you may have seen VIP 1 on the streets of Kensington and Knightsbridge in recent years - because it was bought by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in 2006. The Russian businessman paid an incredible £285,000 for the pleasure.


7.  0 - the number of vehicles you need to buy a private plate

A lot of people don’t think personalised number plates are them because they don’t drive. But as we have mentioned already in this piece - personalised number plates are for everyone, not just drivers! There is no legal requirement to use your new plates on any kind of vehicle once you buy it. All you need to do is renew the certificate of entitlement to the number plate and it’s yours for however long you like, regardless of whether you intend to use it on a car. It’s why you see funny or intriguing plate numbers in all kinds of places, from being hung on the wall of a pub or bar to being given to seventeen-year-olds as a birthday [present.


8. Harry Tate

Most people these days won’t recognize the name, Harry Tate - unless you are of a certain age. Harry Tate was a famous music hall star back in the day and is the first recorded ‘celebrity’ to buy a personalised number plate. Unsurprisingly, the plate he purchased was a clever take on his surname - ‘T 8.’ These days, the same number plate is owned by Jonny Tate, one of the owners of Tate and Lyle Sugar Company.


9. S8RRY

When the singer Robbie Williams decided to splash out on a Ferrari a few years back, it touched a slight nerve with his fans. People complained that his brand new purchase was a touch flashy, so he responded by saying sorry in a rather unique way: by buying the number plate ‘S8 RRY.’ While we’re not sure this would be the best way of getting your message across - selling the Ferrari might have been a better one, for example - it’s certainly effective.


10.  6 - The Number of Private Plate Categories

There are six personalised number plate categories. The original plates - known as Dateless - are obviously the first, and are signified by two or three letters followed by a number between 0 and 9999. These Dateless plates were followed by Reverse Dateless, which aren’t quite as desirable - they come with numbers first, letters second. The next step in the number plate evolution happened in 1963 when the Suffix range was introduced. These plates included a final digit that represented a particular year and ran until 1983. This was preceded in 1983 by the Prefix system - which put the digit at the front of the plate. And finally, we have the current range of plates, known as New Style. These plates have been with us since 2001 and will run on to 2099. The digits indicate month of release, followed by the year.


11.  2001 - An Important Year

2001 was also an important year for car users, in that before this time you couldn’t transfer a car registration number from a motorbike or moped to a car. Surprisingly, this was illegal to do for all the preceding years!


12.  456 - Pages of Banned Number Plates

Twice a year, a DVLA steering group meets to look over current lists of number plates - and look out for numbers that could be controversial. The steering group will ban number plates that could be offensive, obscene, homophobic, or politically or religiously sensitive. We won’t publish any of the offending items for fear of shocking anyone, but there are plenty of them! At the current count, the DVLA list runs across a 46-page document.


13.  ‘A1’ - the FIrst UK registration

The UK government started using registration numbers in 1903. One of the very first was ‘A1’, which was bought by Earl Russell. Well, he paid for it at least. In actual fact, it was Russell’s butler that had to queue up outside the London County Council offices all night long to make sure he was first in line for the A1 plate!


14. 2 - The Number of Changes Made Every Year

The current number plate system enjoys two changes of every year, with new plates coming out on March 1 and September 1. As you can imagine, the brand new plates are an incredibly attractive proposition for car buyers, who want to be seen in the very latest models with the very latest plates. Could there be a plate out there that includes one of your special numbers?


15.  1,000 - the Number of Pounds You Will Be Fined For Getting It Wrong!

Finally, make sure that if you do get a personalised number plate, it is legal. There is a lot you need to consider if you want to avoid getting a £1,000 fine or even failing your next MOT. The characters on your registration plate need to be spaced apart at the correct distance, so they remain visible from distance. You also have to use the right font, and also ensure that the details are not obscured in any way.


OK, so there you have it - some surprising facts about the most cherished car number plates in the country. If you are looking for a personalised number plate of your own - don’t forget, they aren’t just for posh cars! - then why not get in touch with us today? You might not be able to afford an A1, but perhaps there is something of personal interest that we can help you with?