When selling a number plate you need to come up with a value for the plate, but how do you know what that value is?
The fact is that 95% of number plates are incredibly difficult to put a value on. 95% of plates are also overvalued by their owners…
To get started on this rather tricky topic let’s take a look the different types of plates in order of their ability to be valued.
PS. If you are interested in valuing a typical custom number plate, feel free to skip towards the end of the page.
Heritage number plates
When you think about assets which can easily be valued, generally they are those which are frequently traded with public results.
Great examples of this are property and shares, which are constantly being valued in the media as well as for more formal reasons such as tax returns.
When it comes to number plates, the only ones which fall into the “frequently traded with public results” category are heritage plates.
Heritage plates are those which consist only of numbers (with the exception of the ‘Q’ prefix in Queensland) and are almost always black and white.
Auctions are held for heritage number plates multiple times each year around Australia, and there is a big market for these plates.
For that reason, tracking prices and placing values on plates is relatively easy.
Heritage plate values are typically based on how low the number is, with number ‘1’ being the most valuable and prices declining as the number increases.
In Victoria for example, the number ‘1’ would be worth a few million dollars, whilst a random 6-digit number would be worth around $5,000.
Exceptions are made for particularly good combinations. For example ‘888’ would be worth considerably more than ‘324’ despite the fact that ‘324’ is a much lower number.
One and two letter plates
There are only 26 single letter plates for each state, and in some cases (such as Victoria where no ‘I’ or ‘O’ plate has been issued) there are even less.
Thanks to their extreme rarity, as well as their visual appeal, single letter number plates have significant value.
Victoria only recently auctioned off their single letter number plates, with prices ranging from $46k (U) through to $110k (A).
Two letter plates are far more common given the much larger pool of combinations, however they would still be considered to be relatively rare.
One of the major attractions of two letter number plates is that they can represent the owners initials.
Two letter plates are far away from the single letter price range, but they can still be considered to be valuable plates worth quite a few thousand depending on the letters.
Valuing a one or two letter number plate still isn’t necessarily easy, but the fact that there is some sales evidence and demand is a great start.
Plates which correctly spell a vehicle make or model
Number plates that correctly spell a vehicle make or model can be quite valuable, but it depends hugely on the individual plate.
A plate such as ‘PORSCHE’ could have a value somewhere in the five figure range.
On the other hand, a plate such as ‘CAMRY’ might only be worth a few thousand.
Why is this since there are so many more Camrys on the road? Well think about the typical owner of each car, not only in terms of the amount of money they’re willing to spend on a plate, but also on the likelihood that they want to show off the make or model of their car.
The ‘CAMRY’ plate still has some value, but it’s nowhere near something like ‘PORSCHE’.
Plates which correctly spell a common name
These plates were more than likely issued by each state a few decades ago, depending on when they started issuing fully personalised plates featuring letters only.
They aren’t easy to value, but they do have value, and some people may be willing to spend many thousands to secure their first name or surname.
Much of their value will depend on how common the name is. A plate like ‘JAMES’ is going to be worth a lot more than ‘WYATT’.
What brings a lot of value for these plates is that they are probably owned by people who have little interest in selling them.
Unlike many plates which people register with the sole purpose of reselling, plates spelling common names will likely have made their way into the hands of the people who want them most, especially considering they’ve been around for 20 or 30 years.
Plates with misspellings may have some value, but only in some cases. For example ‘T0M’ spelt with a zero will probably still be worth a couple of grand, but ‘P37ER’ will likely be worth nothing.
Plates which correctly spell a common word
Plates in this category are very similar to the names category above, however it really depends on the word.
The word would need to have special meaning to a lot of people, and be something that people want to be associated with them.
For example plates like ‘POWER’ or ‘FAST’ might be worth a few grand, but something like ‘TABLE’ is unlikely to have much value.
Misspellings can really hurt plates such as these. Whilst a plate like ‘POWER’ might be worth quite a few grand, the alternative ‘POW3R’ is probably worth very little.
Other special combinations
In this category we have plates that might not mean anything, but have an attractive combination of letters.
The big hitters in this category would be plates such as ‘III-111’ or ‘OOO-000’. These plates use letters and numbers like any other plate, but they are quite clearly very special.
Valuing a plate like this is extremely difficult, but there is no doubt that they have some value.
It’s important not to get fooled into thinking a similar plate could have some value however.
Whilst ‘III-111’ or ‘OOO-000’ potentially have quite a bit of value, something like ‘OIO-11o’ probably doesn’t have any value. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a nice looking plate however.
95% of number plates fall into this category.
The unfortunate truth is that most number plates people advertise for sale are probably worth less than that they originally cost to register.
Whilst you may think your combination is unique or special, the truth is that no one is going to pay you multiple thousands of dollars for it. In fact, you may be lucky to have someone give you a couple of hundred for it.
The problem we see every day is that people list their plates for outrageous prices. Other people see these prices and mistakenly think that plates really sell for these prices.
They then list their plates for even more outrageous prices, and the cycle continues!
If you are happy to sit on your plate for years, then by all means list it for thousands of dollars and hope for a buyer. But if really you want to sell a plate which falls into this category, then you need to start thinking in hundreds rather than thousands.
It might not be nice to hear, but it is the unfortunate truth that most number plate owners don’t want to know.