With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc with the production and sales of new vehicles here in the UK, it would be easy to assume that demand for private number plates would also be falling. That’s not the case at all, however, and the way Covid-19 has changed the country over the last year or so is only helping to increase demand for private plates.
New vs Used Cars
It used to be the case that people who had the money to buy the most expensive brand new cars also had the money and the desire to adorn their latest new toy with a private registration number that may have been designed to advertise who the owner of that new car was. Private number plates used to be seen as an expensive accoutrement of the very rich, but that’s certainly no longer the case.
One of the main reasons people used to buy and use private plates is now coming to the fore more and more in the wake of the pandemic, and that’s to hide the real age of the vehicle they’re allocated to. As the new car market has slumped to an all-time low sales of used cars have been positively booming to the point where used values have actually been increasing month-on-month instead of falling.
A huge increase in used car sales has inevitably led to an increase in the sales of private number plates, especially as more of us are now waking up to how affordable private plates can be and just how easy it these days to buy one and allocate it to a vehicle.
Although new car sales are bound to increase as the country starts to come out of its enforced social and economic hibernation, there’s no reason to think for a moment that private plates are going to get any less popular.
Why are Used Cars so Popular?
There are several reasons why used car sales are booming and the new car market is in an almost unprecedented slump. The first is that just like when the financial crisis hit in 2007/8, people start to tighten their belts when the economic climate takes a turn for the worse and the first thing people stop buying are expensive items like new cars.
Despite fewer people being inclined to splash out on a brand new car during a crisis, people still need to replace their cars as their circumstances change or as their old vehicle needs to be upgraded. If a brand new car looks and feels a little too extravagant for the times or for your current budget, a used car is the obvious alternative.
As well as the desire to tighten belts leading to more people choosing to buy used cars rather than new ones, the pandemic has also led to a lot more people turning to cars who may not have even owned one previously. Lots of people have found themselves working from home over the last year and that inevitably means they’ve been using public transport less, or even abandoning it completely.
People still need to get around, however, even if they only have to go into the office once or twice a week now. Instead of paying a lot of money for an expensive season ticket for the train or bus that won’t get used most of the time, plenty of people have found that a modest used car is a cheaper and more flexible form of transport.
As well as being there to go to the office now and then when they may need to, a car also opens up lots of other possibilities for people who might previously have been entirely reliant on public transport. Also, as well as those who are now finding themselves working from home, a fear of catching the virus on public transport has also led to people abandoning public transport in favour of driving a car (or even motorbike) instead.
It’s probably the case that sales of other items will increase significantly such as tyres, exhausts, cleaning products, etc. Those will take time, however, but we already know that sales of private plates have grown as a result of more people buying used cars because many of us will buy a personal plate as soon as or even before we buy a used car.
What Plates are People Buying?
We often think of private plates as being those very short, very rare and very expensive plates we see on celebrity cars and those of the very rich. The likes of Lord Sugar’s AMS 1, Max Bygrave’s MB1 or Amir Khan’s BOX 111G plates come to minds as obvious examples of private plates, but the vast majority sold these days are a lot more normal and much more affordable.
While plates such as RR1 or F1 can cost almost half a million pounds or more, something more recent with more characters can hide the age of your car or relate to you in some personal way for as little as a couple of hundred pounds. If you want a plate that doesn’t age a relatively new car that has three letters together that resemble your name or your initials you can have exactly that for less than £200 before fees and VAT.
The most popular of these are the likes of SAM, DAN, BEN, TOM and AMY, and lots of people go for BMW for quite obvious reasons. You could have a current style plate such as —51 BMW for around £600, but –51DAN would be about £100 less. If you have three initials that are not among the most popular around at the moment you could even have something like K– GHF for a couple of hundred quid that really doesn’t give the age of your vehicle away. That is unless your car really is a 1992/93 model, of course.
Unlike your car, a private plate is extremely unlikely to reduce in value and it will almost certainly increase in value over time. This makes a private plate a good investment or a fabulous gift for someone, so it’s no wonder that sales of private plates have never been more buoyant.