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How to make money from number plates

How to make money from number plates

Personalised number plates are becoming increasingly common. Many celebrities boast having one, such as Alan Sugar (AMS 1) and Vinnie Jones (100 VJ).

However personalised number plates are not just for the rich, powerful or egotistical; they’re also big business. In January 2006 £254,000 was paid to the DVLA for the number plate 51 NGH and in March 2009 a staggering £352,000 was paid for the number plate 1D. Number plates can be a very good investment indeed.

Why number plates?

Number plates hold and increase in value because each one is unique. Realistically you’re unlikely to find an interested buyer for a random assigned registration mark (that’s the usual reg plates that we get with a car) but if you purchase a short plate number, one that has a special significance or one that is dateless then you may well be able to make a profit from it in the long-term.

What to buy?

When  you’re buying a number plate with the intention of making a profit you should think like a buyer. Ask yourself:

  • What is it about that number plate that would make a buyer interested? Number plates that read as words are incredibly popular and are likely to be a good investment. For example Pope John Paul II had the number plate VIP 1 on his popemobile, which then sold for £285,000. Admittedly it’s unlikely you will make as much as the pope but number plates like that are a good investment because, chances are, someone will be willing to pay good money for the word you have.
  • advanceddrivingAlternatively you can take a punt and buy a plate with popular initials. Many people are often willing to pay a fair bit of money to have their initials plastered on their number plates. This is obviously more of a risk, you have to hope that you will find the right buyer, but the return can be good. Just avoid buying a plate with uncommon initials like the letter X, because this will make it harder to sell on (unless it’s something like XXXX or 4X or XTRA – the sort of combinations that novelty plate buyers would like).
  • Number plates that are short are a good bet although they are expensive to acquire, and at DVLA auctions there will usually have a high reserve price.
  • Number plates that are dateless, with up to four numbers and three letters, are also highly desirable, but, again, to buy one new you will need to go to a DVLA auction.

It’s important to be aware that when the number plate has an age identifier, (for example 62 indicates 2012/13), it can not be used on cars that were registered before that date.

It’s also important that the spacing and letters have not been edited in any way as this is illegal and could lead to an unexpected fine!

Be careful

When buying make sure that the seller has a genuine V750 certificate of entitlement or V778 retention document, and that it’s signed by the person whose name is at the top of the certificate.

Only the people named on one of these documents can assign the number plate to their car. Be aware there is an £80 transfer charge if a seller is transferring his number plate from his car to yours.

To transfer a number plate both vehicles must be DVLA registered, available for inspection and have an MOT certificate.

Both buyer and seller must also complete a V317. If you do not plan on using the number plate on your car, you must pay to retain the registration number. It costs £25 to have the nominee on the retention document changed.

Where to buy?

You can buy a number plate directly from the DVLA Personalised Registrations website at any time. The most valuable number plates, however, are likely to be sold at a DVLA auction, which are held six times a year.

Each auction has 1,500 desirable number plates for sale, each with a reserve price, where you can bid amongst number plate enthusiasts for a brand new registration number. Find out where and when the next auction is being held here. images (1)

If you can’t find the number plate you want on the DVLA website you can contact the DVLA directly and make a request. If the number plate you want is available then it may be offered at a future DVLA auction.

eBay has a large Cherished Number Section with an active community of number plate sellers and there are many specialist websites that sell personalised number plates, including:

  • Regtransfers
  • Newreg
  • Nationalnumbers

These are all reputable sites and members of the RMI Cherished Numbers Dealers Association.

Alternatively it could be worth looking through your local paper and free advertising sites to see if anyone is selling.

When buying, make sure that you do a price comparison with similar number plates on the market to ensure you are getting a fair deal. Also note that if your car is scrapped whilst the registration number is assigned to it then the number plate is lost and unrecoverable.

How much would you expect to pay?

How much you might pay for a number plate will vary according to how desirable the number plate is. On the DVLA website prices start from £250. For example if I search for a number plate with my own initials, MC, prices range from £399 for the number plate V222 MCC, to £999 for MC02 ABE. At the real top end of the price range, the number plate MC 9 would set me back £57,495 at newreg.co.uk!

It might sound easier and cheaper to change your name by deed poll to match your licence plate rather than the other way round, but registration marks can be very good investments. For example in the mid nineties the number plate 1 SAJ was sold for £3,300. Its value today is estimated to be £30,000. Not a bad return!

How to keep your number plate safe

Although all number plates risk being stolen for the purpose of car cloning, special number plates shouldn’t be any more vulnerable than a standard number plate as there are checks in place to ensure criminals cannot make a fast buck by selling it on. They would require either the retention document or the certificate of entitlement or, if they were trying to transfer the number plate, then their car would have to be DVLA registered, available for inspection and have an MOT certificate. Thankfully this makes it difficult for would-be criminals.

However if you are concerned that your eye catching number plate might draw unwanted attention, why not invest in making your plate theft proof? Companies like Secureplate use patented technology to keep your number plate safe.

It is important to notify your insurer of any changes to your number plate as your plate must correspond with their documents. It also gives you protection in the event of your car being stolen, as it will allow you to try and claim back your number plate. This shouldn’t cost you any extra, however.

Remember, if you are not going to be using your number plate on your car and simply want to store it, you will need to put it on a retention document, which costs £155 for three years.

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Where to sell?

All the sites you can use to buy number plates you are also able to use to sell them. These include eBay, and:

  • Regtransfers
  • Newreg
  • Nationalnumbers

Make sure you know whether the company making you an offer is buying it for stock or is offering to sell it for a commission.

Whilst it will take longer to get your money if the company advertises it on their website for a commission, it may well get you more money than a company which offers to buy the number plate outright.

You can also advertise in local papers and on free advertising websites such as gumtree.

Look around at similar number plates to the one you are selling and price sensibly to make sure that you are able to sell whilst still getting a tidy profit. Regtransfers.co.uk offers a free valuation service.

Once you have found a buyer make sure that you have cleared funds before handing over your certificate and transferring or assigning the number plate.

Further information

Before you get cracking make sure to take time to read the government’s instructions about buying/selling personalised plates as this clearly outlines all the legal information you need to know to keep you safe.

3 Responses to “How to make money from number plates”

  1. RD says:

    I saw SPL 1 today on a £110000 brand new Range Rover… !!

  2. Pat says:

    Hi. Years ago, my dad had a car with the number plate SPL1.
    He let that number go on his Humber Super Snipe when he traded it in for a smaller car. How much would that plate be worth now?

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