License plates are not only a necessity, but could also deliver more status to the car and its owner. In some countries, people can pay extra and get so-called “vanity plates”, which are license plates with a custom number or character set. And those who can afford it are willing to pay some extra bucks for their own personalized plate, making the license plate sometimes far more expensive that the car attached to it.
It is estimated that there are 9.7 million vehicles with personalized vanity license plates in the United States alone. In the United Kingdom these kind of plates are also quite popular. German plates show the place where the car carrying them is registered, but for an extra charge car owners can select the two letters after the district designation and up to four numbers. Also in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey personalized license plates are allowed.
A license plate carrying ‘Facebk’, registered in Victoria, Canada, was recently offered for $1.2 million. Most expensive plate in the UK carries ‘F1’ was sold for $870,000 to Afzal Kahn. Before that, the British record was set by an ‘M’ plate that got sold for $656,000. An American motorist who also owned Delaware plate number ‘9’ purchased the number ‘6’ for $675.000 in 2008. Also in China and Malaysia there are auctions whereby the value of plates exceeds that of most cars.
But the true hotspot for license plates is Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where “distinguished plates” with a special combination of symbols (12345, 55555, etc.) or less than five symbols are auctioned whereby the profit goes to charity. According to the website Bornrich, around 37 of the world’s 50 most expensive number plates are believed to have been bought by buyers from Abu Dhabi alone.
Plate number ‘5’ fetched over $6.8 million in 2008 in Abu Dhabi. This exclusive number was sold to businessman Talal Ali Mohammad Khouri who has plans to keep this plate until he dies so it can be auctioned again for charity. Also sold in Abu Dhabi were the numbers ‘7’ for $4.6 million and ‘9’ for $4.19 million. The most expensive license plate ever carries the number ‘1’ and was sold in 2008 to businessman and member of a wealthy Abu Dhabi family, Saeed Abdul Ghafour Khourim for a whopping $14.3 million.