Personalised number plates: the top 10 most expensive ever

Ferrari California T - front tracking
26 Feb, 2015 2:25pm Lawrence Allan

After the plate '250 C' sells for a shock low price, we look at Britain's most expensive private registration plates

The world of private car registration plates is a confusing place, with a collection of digits on a reflective plastic strip commanding huge interest and, often, eye-watering prices. While some might not see the appeal, personalised number plates can have great signifcance to many UK motorists who see them as an essential fashion accessory for their car.

The UK's love affair with personalised registration plates has seen prices of particularly interesting or cherished plates soar in recent times. The DVLA estimates that over £2billion in tax revenue has been raised at its various plate auctions in the UK in the last 25 years.

Selling a personalised plate

They point out that it only takes one or two people to take interest in a specific UK licence plate for bids to explode, with determined enthusiasts letting their hearts rule their heads in the auction room. May speculators and dealers even make a living from trading valuable number plates as our guide to making money from buying and selling personalised plates shows.

The most expensive cars ever sold at auction

Plates aren't always profitable though. Recently, the much-lauded plate '250 C' came up for auction and was expected to sell for over £500,000, yet the bids only went up to £21,500 on the day of the auction. The number plate's estimated value was based on its apparent reference to Ferrari's classic 250 GT California, an example of which was bought by DJ Chris Evans for over £5million. It was thought that a wealthy Ferrari 250 owner would snap-up the registration but the predicted bidding war did not emerge. 

Sometimes UK number plate prices really do go through the roof. Below are the ten UK licence plates that have hit the highest prices...

The UK's most expensive car number plates

  1. 1. '25 O': £518,000
    The priciest ever sold by the DVLA, bought by Ferrari dealer John Collins in 2014. The plate is now thought to take pride of place on a Ferrari 250SWB once owned by Eric Clapton, worth around £10million.
  2. 2. 'F 1': £440,000
    The previous record holder, the initials of Formula 1 were bought by Bradford businessman Afzal Khan in 2008. The digits were then assigned to his McLaren-Mercedes SLR.
  3. 3. 'S 1': £404,000
    Claimed to be Scotland's first ever number plate, it was bought back in 2008 by an anonymous bidder who claimed the digits would be fixed to an old Skoda!
  4. 4. '1 D': £352,000
    Despite the obvious reference to the pop group sensation One Direction, this plate was bought a year before their formation in Warwickshire by Lebanese businessman Nabil Bishara.
  5. 5. 'M 1': £331,000
    Bought in 2006 by mobile phone businessman Mike McCoomb who claimed it was for his 10 year-old son!
  6. 6. 'VIP 1': £285,000
    Owned by billionaire Chelsea FC boss Roman Abramovich, it was once placed on the Popemobile for His Holiness' visit to Ireland.
  7. 7. '51 NGH': £254,000
    A popular name in the Sikh community, 'Singh' was sold in the UK in 2006.
  8. 8. '1 RH': £247,000
    This plate sold in 2006 for 30 times its estimate to determined businessman Robert Harverson.
  9. 9. 'K1 NGS': £231,000
    A royal plate believed to have been bought by an an Arab Sultan in 1993.
  10. 10. '1 O': £170,000
    Just a binary number and the letter 'O', this minimalist plate was purchased in Northamptonshire in 2009.

What do you think of personalised car number plates? Would you get one for your car? Let us know in the comments section below...