Home Cars What Is It About Personalised Number Plates?

What Is It About Personalised Number Plates?

by Dangula Bingula

Personalised number plates just simply don’t seem to go out of fashion.  They are enduringly popular and in 2012, the DVLA earned £67 million from the sale of them.  But what is the appeal for these types of plates: www.theplateman.net

Perhaps it is because personalised number plates are portrayed as the domain of the rich, famous and successful.  Lord Alan Sugar has several of them and Prince William and Kate Middleton left their wedding reception in a car with a personalised plate that read, JUST WED.


Luxury cars, vintage cars, Formula 1, they all have a cachet, a prestige and a kudos which we want to be associated with.  It spells out glamour, success, speed, wealth, status, privilege and downright sex appeal. This has been totally ramped up by television and the film industry. 

For years, personalised number plates have been appearing in programmes and film. In ‘The Persuaders’, the character, Brett Sinclair, titled as the 15th Earl of Marnock and played by Sir Roger Moore, had an Aston Martin DBS with a personalised number plate, BS 1.  Definitely the playboy aristocrat and all-round action man. And personalised number plates have appeared in Bond movies such as Goldfinger and numerous other dramas and programmes all reinforcing the male stereotype that the driver is a man to be reckoned with one way or another.


Justification for spending what can amount to eye-watering amounts of money for a private plate range from, “it’s my money and I can spend it how I like” to, “it’s no different to spending a lot of money on a house, a car, a boat or a Rolex watch.”

But there just seems to be something with personalised number plates which is despised by those who are not interested, who are not petrolheads and who think the whole thing is just a chronic waste of money.

Many private plate owners have multiple purchases and will justify their spend saying that the plates are an investment.  True if they portray a desirable word, probably less true if they are more personal to you, say your initials, although you could probably sell the plate to someone with the same initials but the investment angle doesn’t really seem to stack up with these lower value plates.


One of the top sellers from the DVLA was ‘1 D’ which was sold in March 2009 for £352,000, a present from the buyer to his wife.  But there could be plates which have exchanged hands privately for greater sums of money. Personalised number plates have been described by motoring journalist and industry pundit, Quentin Wilson, as a ‘suburban trinket, a piece of automotive jewellery’, the latest piece of bling for this motoring obsessed nation.

The DVLA has its own auction company, SMA Vehicle Remarketing and one of their auctioneers described personalised number plates as ‘marmite’ – so you either love them or you hate them.  I wonder if there is a personalised number plate that says Marmite..? But the fact remains that love ‘em or hate ‘em, the DVLA has contributed £1.8bn to the Treasury from the sales from its auction site since 1989.