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30 Years of Private Registration Plates

By Phil Gardner | August 5, 2019


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See the 12 most expensive plates sold

30 Years of Private Registration Plates

Private registration plates can be quite divisive on the roads in the UK. While some motorists appreciate that these statement-purchases can add a personal touch to their vehicles while also hiding the vehicle’s age, other motorists consider them to be a bit ostentatious, or even tacky.

Regardless, private registration plates are big business in the UK and as of this year, the industry has been in existence for a whole 30 years.

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Private registration plates first went on sale in 1989 as a way to raise funds for the treasury. Since then, over £2billion has been generated for the government through the sale of a staggering 6 million sales.

Ahead of a live public auction, the registration agency has published the 12 most expensive registrations they have sold along with the price they were sold at, and the figures are pretty mind-blowing…

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Of course, other private plates have been sold privately, acquiring significantly greater prices than those generated above, such as the ‘F1’ registration which sold in 2018 for a reported £14million.

It’s still very interesting to see that the registration ‘1A’ still features as the 8th most expensive private plate sold by the agency, considering it was actually sold in the first-ever live public auction way back in 1989 at Christie's in South Kensington, London.

In the first financial year of private plates being on sale, between 1989 and 1990, only 658 plates were sold to the general public. The trend didn’t take long to get going though and in the second year, there was a ridiculous 3875% rise in popularity, with 26,161 registrations bought by motorists in the UK. Of course, private registrations have increased in popularity dramatically in the last 30 years, and in the financial year of 2018/19, there were almost 404,000 registrations sold.

How much do they actually cost?

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Well, of course, it is difficult to say, because all private plates differ in terms of desirability, and the examples which are universally appreciated typically demand a much steeper sum. You can get a rough idea of how much you’d be paying by looking at the marketplace...

For example, if you were to bid in a timed auction, the average price for a registration plate sale currently stands at £877 which is pricey but not ridiculous. Compare this to live auctions (typically reserved for more desirable reg plates) where the average plate sells at £3,225.

The most accessible way of getting a private registration plate is of course through the DVLA website, where the average price is somewhat reasonable at £342.

So, where do you stand in all of this? Have you always wanted a private registration plate, or are they simply not your style? And if you’ve already got a private registration plate, what's the story behind the letter and number combination that you selected? Let us know in the comments section below.

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