Whether you’re a first time buyer or you’re looking to add to your existing collection, there are a couple of different ways to acquire a plate.
The three main options are as follows:
- Private sale
- Number plate broker
- Direct from the registry
Which option is better is somewhat irrelevant, depending on whether you are after a specific plate or just any random combination.
Arguably the most common way of purchasing a heritage number plate is via auction.
I say arguably, as it’s almost impossible to know how many plates are traded in alternative methods, such as private sales.
There’s no argument that an auction is the most public and accessible way of buying a plate however.
The most well-known heritage plate auctions are held by Shannons, who run auctions in both Sydney and Melbourne every couple of months.
As with anything being auctioned, sometimes this format will allow you to grab a bargain, whilst other times the price can be much higher than expected, especially if a few people with money like the same plate.
You can view a list of upcoming Shannons auctions by clicking here.
Shannons aren’t the only ones who hold auctions.
In South Australia the state government auctions plates via Evans Clarke a couple of times a year.
A private business, Plates.com.au, also holds auctions in both SA and Queensland.
Plates are also auctioned from time to time on ebay, however we’ll cover these in the private sale section.
A private sale can occur in a number of different ways.
Often low number heritage plates are traded without even being advertised.
There is a relatively small pool of owners of very high quality plates (in particular 2 digit and low 3 digit plates) and often plates will be traded within this pool.
Unless you’re part of this group, it may be difficult to acquire a plate in this manner.
There are also a couple of popular websites where you’ll fine heritage plates listed for sale.
Once such site is numberplates.com.au which has over 100 heritage plates listed for sale.
There are also some smaller websites which specialise in heritage plates for certain states.
You will often find that prices are set very high when listed online, however it’s still worth making contact and putting forward a reasonable offer.
Another option for private sales is via ebay, however most sellers seem to set their reserves far too high, and therefore plates rarely sell in this manner.
Number plate brokers
There are individuals out there who specialise in brokering heritage number plates.
Often these services are known via word-of-mouth rather than advertising, so it will pay to ask around.
We did know of one active plate broker and would have listed them here, however they are no longer in the game.
If you are a plate broker and think you deserve a mention in this guide, please get in touch with us.
The benefit of using a broker is that you can rely on their knowledge of plate values, and their ability to negotiate a sale whilst taking the emotion out of it.
If going down this path just ensure you’re clear on whether the broker is working for you or for the seller.
Direct from the registry
It is still possible to buy a heritage number plate direct from the state transport department in some cases.
In Victoria you can purchase any available six digit number plate directly from VicRoads.
Via their website you can search through the six digit combinations available and order online.
Before you jump into this option keep in mind that VicRoads charge $10,000 for these plates.
To put that into perspective, that sort of money would have bought you a high quality five digit plate at any of the recent Shannons auctions.
Queensland also allows the purchase of heritage plates (known locally as ‘Q Plates’) via their website.
Plates with four, five or six digits can be searched for via this page and ordered online.
Prices are currently $5,000 for a four digit plate and $3,000 for a five or six digit plate.
Unlike in Victoria, the price for these Queensland plates is extremely good value, but an unfortunate side effect is that they have effectively destroyed any growth in plates with four or more digits.
How much to pay?
This question could (and eventually will) form this basis of its own entirely separate guide.
Some people will disagree, but in reality heritage plates don’t really have any ‘value’ as such.
People often say “Oh that plate is worth fifty grand”, but in reality it’s only worth whatever a willing seller and buyer can agree upon.
The best way to check the going rate for a heritage plate (especially in Victoria and NSW) is to browse through the recent Shannons auctions results.
These results tend to be fairly consistent, and should give a good indication of the going rate for plates within certain number ranges.
When it comes to other states where auctions and public sales are far less common, working out how much to pay is far more difficult.
In this case it’s simply a case of a buyer deciding how much they want to pay, a seller deciding how much they’ll accept, and trying to find some middle ground!