The Most Expensive DVLA Plates Ever Sold

DVLA plates that send a personal message are big business, with regular auctions of desirable plates drawing price tags in the thousands – and sometimes even the tens and hundreds of thousands. For those who take personalised plates seriously – and happen to have enough spare quid to spend more on a plate than many spend on a car – the stakes are high.

Record-Setting Auction

The proud owner of the most expensive plate ever sold at a DVLA auction is John Collins, a classic Ferrari dealer. He paid the eye-widening sum of £518,000 for a plate that reads “25 0” in March of 2015, setting the record.

The “25 0” is a reference to the classic Ferrari 250, and the plate is believed to have found a home on a Ferrari 250SWB that previously belonged to Eric Clapton. The car itself is valued at £10 million, so the cost of the plate appears a pittance by comparison.

Mr. Collins’ plate not only is the record purchase in the U.K., it’s the most expensive plate every purchased in the world. He told the BBC he would have bid higher if necessary, even suggesting he was willing to become the owner of the world’s first £1M plate.

More Expensive Plates

The Ferrari plate’s price is impressive, but not the first time prices have skyrocketed for a sought-after plate.

The year 2008 saw the sale of the previous record holding plate. Reading “F 1”, the plate was sold at a DVLA auction for £440,000. The number, which references Formula 1 racing, found its home on businessman Afzal Khan’s McLaren-Mercedes SLR.

The next three plates were not much less, so to crack the top five most expensive plates ever sold you would still have to ante up north of £330,000.

Top 5 Most Expensive Personalised Plates Ever Sold
Rank Plate Year Price
1 25 0 2015 £518,000
2 F 1 2008 £440,000
3 S 1 2008 £404,000
4 1 D 2008 £352,000
5 M 1 2006 £331,000

One pricy plate, “VIP 1”, was purchased for £285,000 and graced a vehicle carrying the Pope on a visit to Ireland.

Of course, none of these prices take into consideration private sales, only DVLA auctions. Who knows what prices private number plates dealers have seen?

Bidding Wars

DVLA expects certain plates to go for astronomical prices, but they aren’t always correct. At an auction this past year the plate “250 C” was up for bids, with an anticipated selling price of £500,000 or more.

Not a surprising estimate, considering that like “25 0” the plate corresponds to a Ferrari model, the 250 GT California. DVLA was banking that the plate’s reference to a £5 million car would tempt a wealthy buyer, but the auction didn’t live up to expectations. The plate went for a (mere) £21,500. Still not precisely a bargain, but nowhere near the selling price of the previous Ferrari-related plate number.

What sends some DVLA number plates into the hundreds of thousands while others don’t draw nearly as much from bidders?

The key is multiple bidders. As long as more than one person is determined to have that plate, and enough involved have deep pockets, and prices rise with demand.

DVLA plates sell for the most money when bidding wars take off and emotions run high; people who have an emotional attachment to a particular plate are willing to pay a lot more, and often more than they planned. Certainly it’s not unusual to become caught up in the excitement and keep increasing the price.

Even less popular plates can go for several thousand dollars at auction, with prices rising overall through the past decade, so make sure you really want that plate before you bid.

However, if you’re looking to pick up a DVLA plate with a personal meaning to you, do realise that these astronomical prices are the exception by far. It is very possible to get a plate you desire for a price that fits your budget nicely.