More likely than not, your car cost a pretty penny, and you no doubt agonised over the decision. Which make and model was right for your lifestyle and your budget? Of course, most of us don’t have a truly unique car – there are likely thousands of identical vehicles on the roads. It makes sense, then, that in a fleet of similar vehicles you would want to differentiate yourself. One of the most popular ways to make a mark on your car is to get hold of a personalised registration number plate for your vehicle.
Registration of cars came about in the UK in 1903, in an effort to make vehicles easily identifiable in the event of infractions or accidents. However, the hubris of humans managed to make this tedious requirement a little bit more tailored to the person. The first personalised plate was adopted by the Music Hall comedian Harry Tate who chose ‘T8’. Pretty simple, and an obvious choice. Today the choices now are more complex, but also more accommodating. In the UK, the use of personalisation has grown beyond just being something for people who have money to burn. It can be used to demonstrate your personal affiliations – from a favourite football team with WH01 FC for West Ham to expressing your enthusiasm for intergalactic derring-do with NCC 1701A, the registration number of the USS Enterprise
The personalisation of number plates can serve many masters. Most people just use it as a totem to their own identity (LE01 CAR for Leo’s car, for example) but there are more, lets say, whimsical examples. One of the most expensive auctions for personalised plates is the charming and very straightforward ‘PEN 15’ plate, currently at a bid of £15,000. It’s an obvious chuckle, but it is a bit of an odd choice for personal branding.
There are fairly simple rules for obtaining the number plate of your dreams. The most prevalent method is via an auction, either by the DVLA (Department of Vehicles and Licencing) or by private dealers. Once you have one you can keep hold of your personal plate by a process called a ‘Cherished Transfer’ if you change your car.
The DVLA charges a base rate of £80 to register, then you need to pay for the physical plate to be made. Where the auctions come in is where someone else has claimed a particular registration and is willing to pass it on (for a fee) to interested parties. The best way to acquire what you want is to search the DVLA website or the various on-line auction houses with your credit card in hand. Then it’s a nerve-wracking wait for the auction to end.
Obviously, the process is somewhat expensive, and it’s easy to see why they are referred to as vanity plates in the US. If you have a very specific requirement, you can get it for a fee, and you can keep it for every car you ever own, expressing your individuality in perpetuity. It goes beyond the eponymous ‘bumper stickers’ that let everyone know you are a fan of a certain band, political party or so on – after all, these can be replaced as your tastes change. One downside can be that offensive names (and there are plenty) will like as not highlight you to the police and potentially aggravate people on the street. After all, most people would not walk around wearing a T-shirt with a swear word emblazoned on it. However, a personalised number plate can be a very effective add-on to a car that can mark you out and help you find your car in a busy car park!