Twice each year, new car sales hit a huge spike when the new car registration comes out. Of course, until 2000, there used to be just one spike per year, which is one of the reasons why the current vehicle registration system was introduced.

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There are, however, some car owners who have no interest in the annual registration frenzy, and these are the people who opt for private plates. After all, what better way to stand out from the crowd and stamp your own individuality on your set of wheels? You might be surprised at the lengths, and costs, to which some will go.

Famous private plates

One of the most popular celebrity number plates is VIP1. A great example of understated modesty, it initially adorned the Popemobile during Pope John Paul II's papal visit to Ireland in 1979 and was subsequently purchased by Roman Abramovich in 2006 for £285,000.

Motor racing fans might like the idea of having F1 as a number plate. Bradford businessman Afzal Khan agreed, and he purchased the plate in 2008 to grace his McLaren SLR. He paid £440,000.

If you think that sounds crazy, then it is nothing compared with the UAE businessman who bought the registration number “1” at auction in Adu Dhabi for an eye-watering £7 million. 

Other famous number plates over the years have included MAG1C, which was owned by the late magician Paul Daniels, and celebrity hair stylist Nicky Clarke's H41R DO.

Anything goes? 

You might be wondering whether there are any restrictions to what you can have on your number plate. The answer is that there certainly are. The DVLA will not allow anything that could be seen as offensive or obscene, so if you had dreams of a number plate that would send a rude message to the neighbours, then you will have to think again.

Also, it is not permitted to have a plate that makes your car look newer than it is. So, if you decide that you would like to retain the conventional age-related plate from your first car and transfer it, that is fine, as long as you transfer it to a newer car but not an older one.

How to get a private plate

A simple Google search will take you to a whole choice of websites that buy and sell private plates online. The rules of supply and demand work well here, so while the above celebrity examples might fetch a six-figure sum, you can buy a plate that features your own initials for as little as £100. 

As an example, suppose your initials are DPC. A quick search shows choices ranging from £165 for N61 DPC to more than £14,000 for 777 DC.

Once you own the plate, it takes just a few minutes to transfer it to another vehicle or put it on retention – this essentially means that you still own the registration, and it is yours to allocate to a vehicle whenever you wish.