How much is my number plate worth?
How to value a number plate
Valuing your number plate can be very difficult, primarily because all number plates are unique and unfortunately, there is no magic formula to uncover a registration plates’ value.
There are, however, a number of steps you can take to research the possible value of your number plate. By investing a bit of time and effort, you should be able to get an approximate figure of what your number plate is worth.
This guide is the most comprehensive one on the internet, and will help you to find out how much your number plate is worth. This is a long guide split into many parts, with each part covering a different factor that may influence or affect your plates value.
Each part is important, so we'd suggest sticking with us and reading through all of it. If, however, you're in a rush and just wanted to get a rough idea or starting point for valuing your number plate, we would suggest you research the asking prices of similar plates. Anyway, let's get stuck in.
What type of number plate is it?
The first thing we'll do is to look at the type of number plate, as this factor alone can play a part in its value.
There are currently 5 different types of number plate available in the UK (although across our site we generally use 4 as we combine Irish and Dateless into the same category, we’ve separated them in this guide as it’s important to distinguish between them when looking at values).
Below, we’ll outline the 5 different types and briefly explain what the number plate type alone, could mean for its value.
Prefix (e.g. A1 ABC)
Prefix number plates are generally the most common type of personalised number plate you see on the roads today. There are millions of them available to buy from the DVLA and this can limit their value as there is so much choice and there are many alternatives to most plates. Having said that, prefix number plates with fewer digits are becoming more valuable as there are now less of them available to buy direct from the DVLA.
Suffix (e.g. ABC 1A)
Suffix number plates are rarer than prefix plates because they cannot be purchased directly from the DVLA and are only available at DVLA auctions or via the second hand market through dealers or direct from sellers. This tends to keep their value slightly higher than their prefix equivalents. To look at, they look less ‘ordinary’ and more striking than a prefix plate with the 3 letters being first, and they also have the added benefit of being able to be registered to older vehicles and classic cars, which of course is not possible with prefix number plates.
Dateless (e.g. ABC 1 or 1 ABC)
As their name suggests, dateless number plates have no date of issue attached to them, meaning they can be assigned to any vehicle of any age, making them ideal to disguise a vehicle’s age. They tend to be the most valuable type of number plates around, and depending on the number of digits and the combination, the value can vary hugely. ‘Number 1’ plates and dateless plates with fewer letters and numbers tend to be the most valuable – A 1 and F 1 for example, are two of the most expensive number plates in the UK.
Irish (e.g. IGZ 1)
Usually cheaper than dateless plates, Irish number plates do not have a date attached to them either, which also makes them suitable to disguise a vehicle’s age. As Irish plates always include the characters ‘I’ or ‘Z’, it can be harder to ‘spell’ a name or word with them, making them some of the cheapest in the market place.
New Style/Current (e.g. AB12 ABC)
As with prefix number plates, new style plates are available to buy directly from the DVLA, meaning there are often several alternatives available for each plate, which keeps the values of them down. Also, this style of number plate is quite restrictive in terms of its structure, with all plates having 7 characters. This tends to make the plates look less 'personalised' and also can make it difficult to ‘spell’ a name or word on the plate, which resulted in a lesser demand than prefix plates experienced when they first went on sale. With that said, there are still some great combinations, plates like EN61 AND and HU21 CAN, for example, available.
The meaning of your number plate
We’ll now look at the meaning of a number plate, as a proportion of the value of any plate is determined by its meaning and the significance it could have to a potential buyer.
For example, some number plates spell out a persons first name or surname, some spell a word, some contain popular initials, and some even contain letters that have a meaning to certain groups such as football clubs (LFC/CFC etc.) or vehicle owners (BMW/AUD etc.).
Generally speaking, your number plate will probably fall into one of these categories, depending on the combination.
Name number plates
Some number plates spell a name, nickname or surname, and these are often some of the most valuable number plates around. Obviously the popularity of the name makes a difference here. A plate containing A1 JON or F1 ROB would obviously be more appealing to more people and therefore more valuable than one containing A1 UNA, for example, assuming the other letters/numbers are the same. Don’t forget that not only English names can be spelt with number plates and there are names that you may not have heard of before so a quick Google search is always worth doing.
Word number plates
As with name number plates, if your number plate spells a word then it certainly has some value. Again, don’t forget to check Google for non-English words too. The values of these plates can vary wildly depending on the word and whether it's a word someone would want to display on their vehicle. Word number plates generally have a smaller market of potential buyers than name number plates but combinations like EN61 AND can demand higher prices.
Initial number plates
These tend to be the most popular types of personalised number plates, with lots of people happy to proudly display their initials on their vehicle whilst also hiding it's age. The popularity of the initials make a huge difference here.
The below graphic, although taken from the USA 2000 census, gives a nice illustration to how popular initials are. It shows the likelihood of 676 variations of two-letter initials, and was created by Reddit user Takakikun.
As you can see, the most common first initials tend to be J, M and R, with the most common surname initials being B M and S.
Popular two letter combinations include JB, JM, and JS, along with MB, MM, and MS.
Using the graphic, you should be able to get a rough idea of how common the initials in your number plate are, and therefore the size of the market for it. The more people your plate appeals to, the more it tends to be worth.
Be sure to apply some common sense when looking at the initials. If the initials in your plate are JDS or MJS, it’s going to be worth more than if they were FGY or UV, purely due to the initials being more popular. The basic rules of supply and demand apply here. Again, be sure to Google search the initials on your number plate to check for acronyms or abbreviations.
Vehicle number plates
As long as the car is still around, there will always be a market for car related number plates. Sometimes it’s worth looking into selling your number plate directly to members of a forum or an owners’ club, as they are likely to place a higher value on the number plate due to them being enthusiasts of the car.
Obvious car number plates containing letters like VAG, AMG, BMW or AUD are generally the most popular but with many different manufacturers and models of vehicle available it’s advisable that you Google your number plate’s letters to be 100% sure nothing is missed here.
How to find the meaning of your number plate
It may be glaringly obvious that your number plate spells your name, a word, or relates to a vehicle but then again, it may not.
If it’s not, then we suggest that first thing you should do is Google search your number plate, both as a whole and in sections. Although this seems like an obvious thing to do, many people skip this step thinking that they know best, and a simple search might reveal a meaning that you hadn’t considered.
For example, let’s say your name is Darren Alpine and you own the number plate D3 ALP, you should Google search ‘ALP’. This will show results about the Alkaline Phosphatase test, The Association of Learning Providers, companies called ALP Lighting, ALP Management, ALP Leisure and so on.
If you then Google search ‘D3’ you’ll find information about Diablo 3, and Data Driven Documents.
Lastly, if you start to Google the entire number plate ‘D3 ALP’, Google's will suggest searching for D3 Alpina. If you do this, you’ll find that the BMW tuners ‘Alpina’ produced a D3 model and your number plate would be ideal for one of their owners. Unless you’re a BMW nut, you may well have not realised this!
Armed with this information you could directly advertise the plate for sale on a BMW/Alpina owners forum (the owner of this particular plate has already done just that) or in a magazine.
Other techniques for finding out your number plates meaning can be found in the number plate meanings section of this guide.
It's important that you don’t skip this step, as it’s all too easy to under-value your number plate if you miss something here.
Look at the numbers
If your number plate doesn’t spell a name or word, and doesn’t appear to have any direct meaning, then its value can be hugely influenced by on the letters and numbers in it - how many and what there are.
Consecutive numbers, pairs and triplets of numbers are generally more valuable, as are low numbers.
If your plate is a dateless or Irish style number plate has no other meaning, then its value will rely on it having as few letters and numbers as possible.
For example, the number plate BBB 111 would be worth more than the plate BBB 141 because it has duplicate digits. Also the number plate BBB 11 would be worth more than BBB 111 because it has fewer digits. The character 1 also works for making a plate appear shorter than it really is.
Look at the letters
Once again less is more here. This only applies to dateless or Irish number plates as number of the letters in prefix, suffix and new style number plates are all fixed.
If you have a prefix or suffix number plate then you will have 4 letters in total, a prefix or suffix letter, and a combination of 3 letters together. If you have a new style number plate then you’ll have 5 letters, two at the beginning and 3 at the end of the plate. Whatever type of plate you have, pairs or triplets of letters generally tend to be most valuable if there is no other meaning to your number plate.
For example, the number plate PDR 10 is less valuable than the number plate PR 10, and the plate PR 10 is worth less than P 10, with the number of digits being the main factor in the values here.
Look at the order
Generally speaking, registration plates with letters first (before numbers), are worth more than ones with numbers first) e.g. JM 1 would be worth more than 1 JM.
Research similar plates
Now that you’ve established meaning and looked into the number of digits in your plate, you should know what to compare it to. The next step is to do just that - to compare the prices being asked for similar plates to help you determine the value of your number plate.
Although every number plate is completely unique, this is usually the single best way to get a ballpark valuation.
Do bear in mind though, that often you’ll find the same number plates being advertised for sale at different prices with different dealers. We usually search around and use the lowest figure as our comparable as that’s what any savvy buyer would do.
Things to consider when researching the price of similar number plates for sale:
Look at number plates with similar meanings or similar letters/numbers
Don’t just stop at comparing your number plate with plates that spell the same name or word, look at similar names/words as well.
For example, if your number plate was TAX 1S, then you might want to compare it to plates like CAB 81E.
Similarly, if your number plate was A1 ABC, then see if number plates like A2 ABC and A1 ABD are for sale as comparisons. The more comparisons you can make, the better informed you’ll be.
When looking for similar plates, it’s best to try and copy as much of your number plate as possible and only change maybe one or two numbers or letters. You want to find number plates that are as close to yours as possible, for example:
How popular is the meaning
Clearly, a plate like P3 TER could appeal to anyone with the name Peter, which is more popular and therefore desirable to more people, than N1 SHA for example. While these are both perfect representations of peoples names and are both very appealing in their own right, you can expect that P3 TER would fetch a much higher price simply because of supply and demand.
The plate P3 TER is in very short supply as there’s only 1, and high demand as there’re hundreds of thousands of people with the name Peter in the UK. There is, of course, also only one N1 SHA plate too so the supply is the same; however, there will be much less demand as Nisha is not as popular a name.
Check historical auction prices
The DVLA publish all prices achieved for number plates at previous auctions online. You can search through for any plates that have ever been bought at auction and find out when and exactly how much was paid for them here.
It’s a great, untapped resource because a lot of number plates can be sold at auction and never re-surface in the private market.
For example, if I owned the plate KDM 1, I could simply enter KDM into the search box, and can find out exactly when similar plates were sold, and how much for.
The prices listed here don’t include 20% VAT, the auctioneers’ premium of 8%, or the £80 assignment fee, however, we've included a table below which illustrates this.
|Hammer Price||VAT on Hammer Price @ 20%||Buyer's Premium (@ 7%)||VAT on Buyer's Premium (@ 20%)||Assignment Fee||Total|
If the figure isn't included in this table, you can of course do the sums yourself, and in this example, we've done just that and calculated that the £7,600 hammer price achieved for 1 KDM, actually ended up costing the buyer £9,929.60.
The next thing to do is to account for inflation.
In the example we’ve used here, 1 KDM sold way back in 1997.
Obviously things were a lot cheaper back in 1997.
So all we need to do is enter the total price and the year it was sold into the Bank of England’s inflation calculator to get today’s value.
This shows us that the £9,929.60 paid in 1997, would actually be £16,141.79 at today’s prices.
We now know exactly how much was paid for a very, very similar plate to ours, and have even indexed the figure to account for inflation.
Although this gives us the absolute rock-bottom cost figure, it doesn’t necessarily give us the actual value, as registration plates have generally appreciated over time with more interest and demand.
Knowing how much someone paid for a plate is really useful, possibly even more so than seeing how much number plates are advertised for (after all, you can advertise your plate for whatever price you want, it doesn’t mean anyone will buy it).
However, you should bear in mind that the prices paid at auctions can be lower than the prices dealers advertise plates for. They may even be lower than someone would be willing to pay.
This is because a large amount of number plates bought at auction, are actually bought by dealers, traders and investors, who buy them to sell on, adding their mark-up in the process.
Despite huge marketing efforts, DVLA auctions still only attract only a small number of the general public.
Get several number plate valuations
Many number plate dealers offer to value your number plate for free. Some of these valuations are computer generated; others can be done over the telephone. The reason they do this for free is that they want to sell your number plate on your behalf and take a percentage of the sale price as their commission.
Dealers act as the middlemen between number plate buyers and sellers (very much like estate agents do with properties) and they make money by loading their commission into the final selling price of the number plate.
For this reason, the valuation they’ll give is often what will be returned to you when the number plate sells, not the asking price which will be displayed on their website or the price that a buyer would actually pay – so just be aware of this.
We would suggest getting as many valuations as you can, and would aim for a minimum of 3.
The reason for this is that with something like number plates, where there is no official guideline on value, you will probably find that the valuations that you get vary quite widely.
Different experiences, opinions and levels of research will probably lead to different valuations, but getting a few will allow you to average them out.
Are free valuations too good to be true?
As mentioned above, if you request a number plate valuation from a dealer, you will most likely be given a figure that they will aim to return to you. Let’s call this figure £X.
The dealer will actually advertise your plate on their website for a much higher price as they’ll add on their commission; let’s call this figure £Y.
The thing to consider is that if someone is willing to pay £Y for your number plate, then would you be happy to only accept £X for it and pay the difference to the dealer?
For example, let’s say you own the number plate A1 ABC, and have been told by the dealer that they will pay you £3,000 when the number plate sells. You then check on their website and see that they’re advertising it for £4,200.
How do you feel about it?
Yes they have a broad advertising reach, will take payment for the plate and complete the paperwork - but you have to decide if this is worth the money to you personally.
If you’d prefer a hands-off approach, a dealer could be perfect for you.
If however, you want to maximise your return from the sale, then for the extra effort involved in advertising the number plate privately you could receive £4,200 instead of £3,000.
How much did you pay for your plate?
Looking back at the amount that you paid for your number plate is another good indicator of its value.
Some people think that they can buy plates for £250, and then sell them on for thousands – this is highly unlikely.
If there were that kind of profit to be made, then the plate would probably been snapped up a long time ago by one of the many dealers or traders that buy and sell for a living.
Consider how much you paid for the plate and also it may be worth looking at how long ago you bought it, and again possibly accounting for inflation using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.
This will work for many plates, but not all.
A lot of personalised number plates may have started out as £250 purchases from the DVLA directly, so you would think that those plates would be worth at least £250, possibly more if you add in inflation as we suggested above.
However, unless it spells a name or word, or has a meaning that would add value to it then there may well still be very similar plates for sale at the DVLA, which drives down the price of your number plate.
For example, let’s say your name is Alan Brian Hodgkinson, and you buy a number plate that contains your initials, J7 ABH.
If there are still other J* ABH plates for sale on the DVLA website for £250 with no additional fees, then it makes sense that to attract a buyer to your plate, you may need to make yours slightly cheaper to tempt them away from the DVLA.
Why would someone pay much more than £250 for J7 ABH, if J4 ABH is still £250?
Who might buy your number plate and how much can they afford to pay?
Now that you’ve looked at the meaning of your number plate and similar plates, you should start to consider who might actually want to buy it and how much they can afford to pay.
If your plate were P1 LOT for example, then you would assume that a pilot might want to buy it. As we all know, being a pilot is a fairly well paid profession, so you can also assume that they can afford to pay a good price for it.
If your number plate were a car related plate, for example C10 RSA, then you would expect it to appeal to any Vauxhall Corsa owners. You would have to consider how much they would be willing to pay for this in comparison to the value of the car.
L4 MBO on the other hand, would probably fetch a lot more given the value of the car it is likely to be placed onto.
Urgency to sell
This is another of the most important elements that go into valuing your number plate. If you’re happy to wait for months or even years for the right buyer to come along and pay the right price, then you can hold out for the best price. If, however, you’re in a rush to sell, then you’re probably going to have to accept a considerably lower value for your plate.
Is your plate worth more if you sell it with your car?
Possibly, but more than likely not. This generally applies to car related number plates, for example, Audi R8 owners often having R8 *** plates. These can be a great way to make your car stand out from others on the market, whilst simultaneously hiding its age and by selling the plate with the car, you avoid having to remove it from the vehicle and find a buyer for both separately.
You will probably have a pretty clear idea of your vehicle’s value, and using this guide you can get an idea of the number plates value, adding the two together to give you your total asking price.
This rule isn’t hard and fast though, as selling the two together may put off some buyers. Not everyone wants a personalised number plate, and some people already have their own so including yours creates work for them.
Is your plate worth more as part of a set or a pair?
In some cases it can be, but this really depends on the plates in question. If you have two matching plates like 1 ABH and ABH 1, then the same person may well want to buy both plates and pay a premium for them.
Not everyone wants or can afford to buy a pair of plates together though, so whilst we do recommend offering this as an option to an interested party, we wouldn’t suggest you insist on selling them together.
Does your plate need illegal spacing to give it meaning?
If your number plate needs to be illegally spaced or requires conveniently placed bolts for it to be read as a name or word then the value it will be seriously affected.
The DVLA and the police have become increasingly vigilant in the past few years at penalising those who misrepresent their number plates. The fine has increased to a massive £1,000. This is enough to put off most buyers.
Misrepresenting the plate is also against the law and on that basis we advise against it entirely.
Leaving room for negotiation
The last thing to consider when valuing your number plate is leaving a little room for negotiation.
Anyone who’s ever sold a car will know that buyers will always try to negotiate with you, and selling a number plate is no different.
For that reason, we suggest adding a percentage on top of the price you really want for the plate (perhaps around 10%), to give you a bit of room to negotiate with buyers.
Final word on number plate valuations
There is no exact science to valuing a number plate. Even experienced number plate dealers don’t know definitively how much your number plate is worth, although they do have a good idea thanks to their experience.
This guide gives you ideas and exercises that will help you to value your own number plate and ultimately the valuation will be down to a combination of these factors.
The fact is that the more time you spend determining the meaning of your number plate and the value of similar plates for sale, the more accurate your valuation is likely to be.
Valuing a number plate – checklist
This guide covers many inside tips and tricks to help you uncover the true meaning and value of your number plate. This checklist will help you to make sure you’ve considered all of them:
- Establish your number plate’s meaning
- What ‘style’ is your number plate?
- Does it spell a word, name or initials?
- If it doesn’t are there a low number of digits/letters?
- Are there any pairs or triple digits / letters?
- Does it contain any abbreviations?
- Have you Google searched the plate, both in parts and as a whole?
- Assess the value of similar number plates
- Research number plate dealers and the DVLA for similar number plates for sale.
- Research number plate dealers and the DVLA for similar number plates for sale.
- Obtain as many valuations as possible
- Consider how much you paid for the number plate
- Consider who might buy your number plate and what they could afford
- Include a buffer in your valuation for negotiation
If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with us. We hope you've took some value away from this guide and that it helps you to get an accurate idea of how much your number plate is worth.
Still not sure?
If you’re still not sure what your plate is worth then don’t worry. Using our years of industry experience, we can tell you exactly what we think your plate is worth with an independent, impartial valuation. We carry out extensive research, taking into account all of the above factors and more, to give you a realistic indication of the value of your registration.
If you’d like us to do this, there are two options to consider:
1. If you plan to sell your number plate, then it’s worth looking at placing a Premium Advert with us, as we offer free valuations with all Premium Adverts placed on our site. These are available from just £9.95 per month. Further information can be found at: https://www.plate-trader.com/sell-my-number-plate/
2. If you just want a valuation of your reg and don’t necessarily want to sell it, then we do have a standalone valuations service, where we’ll just value the plate and send you a valuation certificate for only £9.99. Further information on this service can be found at: https://www.plate-trader.com/number-plate-valuations/
We really hope you found this guide useful and thank you for reading.
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