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Making Money with Private Number Plates – Getting it Right

One of the most commonly asked questions on the subject of personal number plates in the UK is also the most obvious of all:

Is it possible to make money…and good money at that…buying and selling personalised plates?

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Well, the simple answer to the question is a pretty convincing ‘yes’ as it’s not uncommon to hear of lucky/savvy sellers making small fortunes by selling their plates on to the rich and famous. To say that the industry as a whole is one of big business would be a rank understatement to say the least as in 2012 alone, well over £2.3 billion was spent on these little clusters of numbers and letters. A new UK record was set last year when a plate sold for over £518,000 which once again showed that with the right combo of letters and numbers, you could indeed find yourself getting very rich from the deal.

So, it’s pretty clear that the UK’s love affair with private plates is alive and kicking, but does this mean that now is the right time to get involved and try making some money? And if it is, how can anyone approaching the business as a first-timer increase their chances of hitting the big time?

Assessing Value

What’s interesting about the world of private plates is that there is in fact no hard and fast rule when it comes to assessing value. The reason being that there’s a huge difference between a plate that looks good and a plate that has the kind of meaning that resonates with would-be buyers. This could be illustrated with a plate that reads ‘9 LLL’ for example, which may look brilliant at a glance but isn’t likely to have mass-market appeal for those looking for a plate with their own initials on it. By contrast, ‘9 AAA’ would probably be worth a fortune as the first letter of the alphabet tends to be very highly sought after.

The only rule to follow therefore in terms of assessing the value of any given plate is to think about how many people would be interested in buying it were you to put it up for sale. The more specific it is to you alone or the more unusual the lettering/initials you choose, the less chance of finding a buyer. But at the same time, opting for something a little too generic isn’t going to result in a high resale price either.

Now or Never

Something else to bear in mind is the way in which it may in fact not be beneficial to hang onto your plates for too long before selling them. While some plates will grow in value over time, others will find their appeal diluted to such an extent you’ll be watching your investment trickle slowly down the drain. The reason being that every time the DVLA introduces any kind of new standards or rules, thousands more private plates creep out. And if one or more of these plates turns out to be similar to the one you’re trying to sell, you’re suddenly in ownership of an asset that’s no longer unique.

If you have a plate that’s clearly worth something and could sell with little fuss, it’s not always a good idea to keep holding out for too long.

Making a Sale

When it comes to making the sale itself, you’ll have the choice of going with a specialist company which will make the sale on your behalf, or having a go at selling it privately. The latter of the two often comes across as the most appealing due to the way in which there are no attached fees or commissions to worry about, but in the spirit of getting the best possible price may not in fact represent the better decision.

The reason being that when you list via a specialist seller, you expose your plate to a massively larger target audience that you’d otherwise have access to. The more people that get to see your plate, the better your chances of getting the best possible price for it. Not only this, but an established company may also help with or wholly take over the admin side of things once the sale has gone through, in turn eliminating the chances of you having to deal with any fines from the DVLA having not gone about the transfer properly.

Of course, all fees and commissions will be laid out in advance so there’s no reason to leave yourself open to nasty surprises, but in the case of first-time sellers in particular, siding with the pros is usually the way to go.


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