October 14th, 2020 at 10:47 pm
When the time comes around for a new number plate to be launched for new cars it usually signals something of a mini-boom time for the auto industry, but as we’re all too well aware by now, this year is unlike any other we’ve seen before in our lifetimes. September 1st this year ushered in the new ’70’ number for UK registration plates, so let’s have a look at what the new plate means and the wider implications of the current situation.
How the new plate can be used
Anyone can buy a new ’70’ registration number from September 1st 2020, but it can only be put onto a vehicle registered on or after that same date. If you’ve bought a new car that’s not a problem and you’ll have been issued with one as part of the sale unless you already have a private number you used instead.
If the introduction of the ’70’ design means a number has been issued and you’d like to buy it now, but you haven’t got an eligible vehicle to put it on, you can keep it on retention until you eventually get a vehicle in the future that was registered on or after September 1st 2020.
Basically, the rule is you cannot put a number plate on a vehicle that makes it look younger than it actually is. You can do the opposite though. You can put a plate on a car that makes it look older.
If you’ve snagged a 70 plate you want but you have no plans to buy a vehicle in the immediate future that you could put it on, there’s no need to worry. A retention certificate is valid for a period of up to ten years and there’s the option to extend that period by another ten years if you require. That means you could buy a ’70’ plate today and you could just sit on it for a period of up to 20 years if you don’t get a vehicle you’d like to put it on.
You could buy a number as an investment, as a present for someone who isn’t old enough to drive yet or for any other reason. A lot of the time, the first opportunity to buy a registration number will usually be the cheapest opportunity to buy that number. It’s therefore better to get it first or you could find yourself paying more to buy it from someone else in the future, and that’s if it does actually come up for sale again.
How it usually works
Even in a normal year, the launch of a new plate at the beginning of March and another at the start of September unlocks a degree of pent-up demand for new cars from those who’ve been holding back on completing the purchase of a new car to wait for the new plate. It’s not just a case of showing off to everyone that you have a brand new car with the latest number plate. Delaying the registration of a new vehicle for what could be a matter of weeks, days or even hours until the new registration comes in can also have a significant effect on the eventual resale price of that vehicle.
On top of the normal clamour for the new plate, 2020 has seen the introduction of two plates that are a little more distinct than in most years. In March the plate changed to ’20,’ and in September it changed to ’70’, so in normal times we could have expected to see even more demand for new cars on the new plates than normal.
We’d normally see a sharp increase in the sale of new cars in September with the arrival of the new ’70’ number plate, but this year the car sales boom could be even bigger on several different fronts.
The new car market
Many observers believe a lot of people have lumps of money burning a hole in their pockets that they’ve saved up since March. This could be through not going out socialising due to the lockdown, though working from home and not commuting to work, and from a general caution about spending money unnecessarily when they don’t know how things are going to pan out.
It could turn out that some people decide to splash out on a new car when they might have bought a used car under normal circumstances because they find themselves with more to spend. Of course, there could also be increased demand from people changing the way they get around as a result of the events of this year.
A lot of people are now finding they don’t have to go into the office every day, so a five-day-per-week season ticket for public transport is no longer viable. Plenty of commuters also have fears over a lack of social distancing opportunities on public transport, and they now see a car or even a motorcycle as a safer (and often cheaper) way of getting to and from where they need to go.
All of this could lead to more new cars being sold and registered in the period following the change to the ’70’ registration than we’d expect to see even in normal times.
The used car market
Any major fluctuations in the new car market also have an effect on the used market. We’ve already seen increased demand for used cars and increasing prices, possibly caused by commuters abandoning public transport. Normally, a new registration month will generate a glut of used stock from trade-ins, so it’s really anyone’s guess how the market will go in the coming months in these unusual circumstances.
One of the big UK online used car sellers has been reporting this week that used car buyers are increasingly looking at more expensive prestige brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and this has driven up the average sales price on their sites by as much as £2,000. How the sales of new ’70’ registration vehicles will affect the used car market will only become clear in the future when we eventually know how big or how small the ’70’ number plate boom has been.
Of course, if you’ve only bought a ’70’ registration number and not a car to put it on, none of this should really be much of a concern to you either way.