Custom and personalised number plates, sometimes called vanity plates, were once the reserve of Premier League footballers and frivolous billionaires. The 10 Most Expensive personalised number plates include the likes of F 1, which sold for £440,000 in 2008, and VIP 1, which was once placed on the Popemobile for His Holiness’ visit to Ireland, and sold to Chelsea FC boss Roman Abramovich for £285,000. But custom plate sales continue to soar year on year, and, with the exception of a choice few, they can now be had for a few hundred pounds.

Personalised number plates are an appreciating asset, which makes them especially desirable to motor-owners and collectors alike. But if you’re buying a number plate, there are certain dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Here’s our advice to help you choose the perfect personalised number plate for you.

Do choose a number plate that means something to you

Certain number plates are sought-after by all, usually because of their universal meaning or specific histories. But custom plates don’t have to be so spectacular or expensive. For many of us, the reason we invest in a personalised plate is in order to emblazon our vehicles with an identity that means something specific to us. Some buyers choose a plate that references their name, while others select a date that marks a meaningful event. A personalised number plate is about more than just the prestige of adorning your vehicle with your name or chosen label. It’s often about a little nostalgia, like this testimonial from Click4Reg customer Tom.

Tom sought the assistance of the personalised number plate specialists to recover the 9 GOU plate that had once adorned his beloved Austin Princess Vanden Plas. Having bought the classic car on his 29th birthday back in ‘63, Tom had sadly swapped the vehicle—with its vintage plate—in favour of a more practical model when it came time to start a family. Half a century later, Tom still mourned the plate as a symbol of cherished memories, and was astonished to recover 9 GOU, which now adorns the three-litre Jaguar XF he drives today.

Don’t be inflexible

Once you have an idea in mind, finding a plate that is both available for purchase and within your budget can mean that a little compromise is be necessary, so make sure you have several options in mind when it comes time to conduct your search. There are a number of different plate styles you might consider:

Dateless style plates tend to be more expensive than other styles, simply because these plates offer more flexibility in terms of the text they can display, and are therefore seen as more desirable. An example is K1 NGS, a plate that sold for £231,000 in 1993.

Alternatively, you might also consider the current-style plate AB12 KNG or prefix-style K123 NGS. Considering a plate owner is able to register their plate for up to 10 years at time and renew as many times as he or she likes, searching for an alternative letter and number combination increases your chances of being able to find the plate you want.

Do make sure you’ve done the paperwork

When you purchase a personalised number plate, it should come with a Certificate of Entitlement (V750), which permits you to assign the registration number to your vehicle. The seller is also responsible for sending along a V5C form, which authorises the sale of the vanity plate.

You must not display the registration number on a vehicle until you have received confirmation from DVLA in the form of a Registration Certificate (V5C). When this is all confirmed, the vehicle’s existing registration number will be withdrawn, unless you apply to transfer or retain it. If you wish to transfer or retain that vehicle registration number, you will need to submit a V317 form at the same time.

Don’t forget to pay your fees

All vehicle number plates must be registered with the DVLA, and there is an expiry date within which you can do this, shown on your Certificate. Before you swap out your old plates for your new personalised design you must pay an assignment fee and an add/change details fee. The assignment fee is used to assign a plate to a vehicle and the add/change details fee is used in transferring ownership from the previous plate owner. The fee is £80.

If you follow these dos and don’ts of purchasing a personalised number plate, you will be rewarded with a vehicle as individual as yourself. Set a budget at the start of your search and don’t forget the legal responsibility and all the requisite paperwork. Remember, you can always discuss your options with personalised number plate specialists who can advise you on the registration process too. DR1V 3ON!