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With the 07 plate registration numbers to be released next week I thought I would take a look at personalised registration numbers, and more importantly bring this service to your attention, should a personalised number plate take your fancy for your nice shinny new car or just make a difference to your old one for that matter.
I acquired my first cherished number plate way back in 1977. The farm where I was working was sold off to become the extension of Harlow New Town and amongst the items to be sold off were two 1950's Fordson and an even older Massey tractor with the registrations ** STU, ** STU and * HAV. At that time pre 1964 registrations were the preserve of the rich and famous. But I persuaded the owner to take them off his hands as they had very little value. This left me with a number of problems; first they had no registration documents, second, I had nowhere to store them and three, how do you transfer the number over to a car? Without going into the technicalities, nine months later, about 25 letters to the old DVLA and three trips to the local tax office I got them transferred. The STU's on my mini and dad's rover and HAV on my motorbike. The moral of the story was it was virtually impossible to transfer registration numbers and the DLVA thought it was a waste of time and resources.
But people wanting that thing that set them apart from the other road users were interested in cherished registrations and a number of companies and individuals set up in business buying and selling registration numbers.
Having done it a couple of times and selling both STU's to a Stuart no less. I started scouring East Anglia for clapped out tractors and cars with brambles growing out of them and transferring interesting registration numbers onto rusty mopeds and motorbikes for ease of storage as there were no V778/1 retention forms in those days.
The DVLA finally realised they were missing out on some serious revenue and decided not only to make the whole process a lot easier, but make some money out of it as well.
In 1981 the DVLA introduced along with the new style prefix letter registrations DVLA select, a service where you could buy a number plate for your car. At first they sold cherished numbers for that year and only cars younger than that year would be able to carry them.
The service was much publicised and I remember the feature on the TV about the first people to buy them, again mainly footballers and pop stars.
The select registration scheme was run by the DVLA but they also franchised it to car dealers, and being with a Mercedes-Benz franchise at the time we made some serious corn out of it as well.
The Service Today ==============
With the advent of the internet the DVLA transferred their service onto a net based platform, although you still use a phone ordering service and some car dealers still act as agents.
Search any car website or look through the Sunday papers and you will see hundreds of different car registration number companies vying with each other to grab your attention, and you can search on their sites for your name, initials or car designation. The results will come up for the nearest match and give you a price which may or may not include transfer/ assignment fees and VAT. One company has even nicked the Select Registration name first used by the DVLA. It is here you should stop before you order and check the official DVLA site and save yourself anything up to 40% of the price from the private company. Why you ask? Well because the search you will do is more than likely be a number plate owned by the DVLA and all the company will do is buy the registration from the DVLA and sell it on to you with their commission on top. Yes the chances are if you are looking at a prefix plate or the new style two letters, two numbers, three letter type it will be owed by the DVLA.
The Website ==========
Select your plate ----------------------
You can tell straight away that you have found the official site by the fact that it is the same as any gov.org website, save for a couple of glossy pictures it is plain green and white with no flashy animated pictures or partner advertising. It is a very simple home page that gives three search options:-
1. Search prefix style registrations, prices start from £250. 2. Search new style 2001-on style, prices start from £399. 3. Search using a name or initials
So say your name is Sam, you could enter your name in any of the three selections and it would give you any of the available registrations, which you can narrow by price. It also shows a small number plate to show how it would look. Next to the results are three sections:-
1. How to buy. Unfortunately you still have to use the phone line to purchase your plate. I understand that they are working on a web based ordering system at the moment. But the number is a 0870 number and is charged at 10p per min. In my experience the transaction takes about 10 minutes so add a pound to your budget 2. You can see your selected plate on your car. From Aston Martin to Volvo a picture of your make of car will be displayed with the number on. 3. You can e-mail a friend with the information, should you be buying as a gift for someone.
So still not found that special plate, well the more unusual and pre 1964 plates are auctioned off.
On the home page you will find information about DVLA registration Auctions. There six auctions a year held throughout the UK. They last for three days and sell between a thousand to two thousand registrations, and one very special one is being held over the next few days at the Williams F1 headquarters in Wantage (I will be there on the 23rd)
The website gives information about Auctions including the calendar and gives you a video link to watch an auction in progress to get a feel what its like to bid. Also there are listings of future sales and numbers with the reserve prices on them.
I have been to a couple of auctions and they are lively affairs. Most plates start around the £400 mark, but the special ones usually go at the end and some numbers take about 10-15 minutes to sell with many people bidding in the room and I have seen some get up into the 20k bracket.
It is a good day out as not only do you meet some interesting people, the auctions are held in some lovely places too.
Got a Question ---------------------
Most people using the service will be doing it for the first time and the DVLA have put an excellent question and answer section together, so much so that I could go into detail as to the process of buying the plate and transferring it onto your vehicle but for the sake of doubling the length of the review I won't, the section on the website covers it in detail and is very easy to understand.
Be kept informed -----------------------
Here you can sign up for e-mail updates about new releases and auctions. The DVLA will release new prefix plates once or twice a year. For example the F plate prefix has just been released along with M155 (miss) and K155 (kiss) so for example you could get M155 SAM , but that is being auctioned and will probably go for something near 10k, you could however get M155 *** your initials for about £1000- £1300.
My Experience ===========
Well with a three letter sir name I had to get myself a cherished number plate, some people view them as unnecessary and snobbish, but I think they are fun and my contribution to them has probably help to pay for some resurfacing work on a pot holed B road that Jeremy Clarkson uses for his test drives.
In my younger days selling them also helped pay for my car and motorbike passion, and it is great to see a number plate on the road still, that I found on an old tractor rotting away in a shed in Cambridgeshire.
I have used the service three times and found it very easy to use, but then again I have been doing it for a while and know the ropes. The phone staffs are very helpful and will answer anything you are not sure about. The whole process takes about ten days, you are issued with a V750 certificate, this has all the instructions you need to transfer the number and involves a visit to your local DVLA office.
Again if you have an auction near you its well worth a visit even if there is nothing in the auction you're looking for, they are great fun and you never know you might just get the bug.
The important thing to remember with the DVLA site is that all numbers offered include the £80 assignment fee and include VAT. And a lot of the other Registration companies do not include the fee or VAT and are adding 20-40% on top of the DVLA price, so beware.
Order line 0870 6000 142 BT lines 10p per min.
Open Mon-Fri 09:00am - 05:00 pm Sat 09:00am - 01:00pm
Just a short footnote about the registration plates. Some people will like to space the numbers and letters to make a name. Be warned that you will need to obtain the plate from a specialist plate maker, who write a disclaimer that the plate is used for show purposes and not for road use to cover them if the police should prosecute you for having an illegally spaced plate. Most no. plate makers use a DVLA approved machine that will only space correctly. (But a black screw cap placed in the right area will always make an 11 into an H) Also if you have show plates made and use them on the road they are illegal and need to be replaced by correct spaced plates when getting the vehicle MoT'd.