Private plates are unique opportunity for DVLA to cash in

Private plates but you only hold the right to display the number, not actually own it!

Private plates but you only hold the right to display the number, not actually own it! - Credit: pxhere.com

Paul Jolly, classic car specialist and valuer:

The world of the private plate, or cherished mark as DVLA calls it, only really started when characters such as Gerald Nabarro, an eccentric Conservative politician from the 1960s, collected them.

In his case it was NAB 1, NAB 2 and so on through to NAB 8.

DVLA has been realising this unique opportunity it has and holds several live auctions across the UK each year, with almost 60 million registrations for sale on its website.

A business asset created from nowhere and with no competition.

Indeed, it is a monopoly worth more than £2 billion over 30 years with ongoing transfer fees of £80 every time you change your car for a simple bit of paperwork.

Personalised registrations have proven a big hit with motorists, with 5.9 million sold since the agency first started selling them in 1989.

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I once owned registration MU 20 and sold it with the car, such was my ignorance. Manchester United Football Club was off my radar. 

DVLA’s first auction saw just 74 lots offered for sale at Christie’s London, with the first lot offered for sale 99 MG, selling for £8,000. The highest price that day was for 1 A, which sold for £160,000. 

Last year, the sale of personalised registrations by DVLA brought in £116 million for the Treasury, most of which came from the thousands of more affordable registrations which are priced from £250.

Clever minds within DVLA also devised marks that attracted big money, like S1 NGH (£210,000) K1 NGS (£185,000) and even KR15 HNA (£180,000).

The raw material cost is zero, there is no one else that can handle the operation and customers pay £80 each time to move their prize number.

And here’s the thing. You only hold the right to display the number, not actually own it!

As a business model, it has no equal.

It would just be nice to see a few more potholes filled in before all our number plates drop off!