Exploring people’s fascination with fancy car plate numbers and how far they would go to attain these.
In October 2016, an Indian businessman based in Dubai made headlines as he spent AED 33,000,000 (approximately $9,000,000) as the highest bidder for the “D 5” car plate at an auction hosted by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). While not entirely new, this trend of owning unique plate numbers is quickly catching on, and such auctions are becoming a regular affair. RTA hosts auctions every alternate month, in addition to having online ones, where people spend time and money in bidding.
This is no longer just a pastime hobby, it is also an investment opportunity, as people can sell these car plates later at higher prices. Such investors have to study and understand the different numbers and sequences available to know which ones would yield the highest profit. For example, triple zeroes on a five digit number plate are known to have exponential value over any other triple number also on a five-digit plate. These can be viewed and analyzed by logging into the RTA website who have set a benchmark for number plate pricing. RTA has also banked on this new demand by developing an advertisement campaign with the slogan, “Plate Your Special Date”, taking advantage of people’s sentiments and needs to hold onto important dates in their lives such as birthdays, anniversaries, and so on.
Owning unique plate numbers has become a factor in being considered amongst the elite in the country. Smaller digits equate to higher importance, prestige, and sometimes power. These individuals may be treated differently or given more respect on the roads and at hotel valet services, where they tend to get additional privileges of best parking spots and quicker car retrieval service. These days, it is no longer enough to be driving a fancy car if it is not accompanied by a fancy number to go with it. It’s almost as though the value of a car, no matter how high end, is not appreciated unless the driver also invests in a unique number that sets it apart from others on the road.
The UAE holds the highest records of the most expensive car plates, and although it may seem that this is another trend for being known as the best and flashiest, it is not the only part of the world that has given into the car plate number fascination. Some examples of outrageously expensive numbers come from the UK, where one business tycoon spent £440,000 (approximately AED 2,000,000) on the car plate: “F1”, making it the most expensive car plate number sold in the UK. Another example is “M1” which was sold for £330,000 (approximately AED 1,500,000) to a man who reportedly bought it for his son’s sixth birthday!
While the thought of dishing out millions for a piece of metal that is meant to serve as a car registration only may seem outlandish, one consolation is that a lot of the money raised at these RTA auctions are donated to various charities. One example is an auction that was held earlier this year, where more than AED 40,000,000 were raised, and all proceedings went towards the Reading Nation Campaign launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. These funds allowed for the provision of over 7 million books to refugee camps and underprivileged children in schools around the world.
While the highest bidder at this charity auction may have been in search of an investment opportunity, personal glory, or simply, giving into a passion of collecting car plate numbers, the silver lining is that at least the money spent on doing so has been for a good cause. Whether that person has given any consideration into where his money has gone is not as important, as long as those in need have somewhat benefited from it and are given some glimmer of hope in their world. Shelling out millions on materialistic goods may not be an ideal way of living, but if this is what our world has come to, then we have to hold onto the belief that there is still some good that can come out of it.
Gulf News (21 June 2016). “More than 40 million raised in charity auction for Reading Nation”. http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/general/more-than-40-million-raised-in-charity-auction-for-reading-nation-1.1849946
Demon Plates. “The Most Expensive Number Plates in the World….Ever!”. http://www.demonplates.com/plates/expensive-number-plates.php
Shafaat Shahbandari, Gulf News (9 October 2016). “Dubai number plate auction fetches Dh.66.68m”. http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/transport/dubai-number-plate-auction-fetches-dh66-68m-1.1909552
7DAYS (16 November 2015). “Dubai car fanatics spend big at exclusive number plate auction”. http://7days.ae/dubai-car-fanatics-spend-big-at-exclusive-number-plate-auction
Shuchita Kapur, Emirates24/7 (11 February 2013). “ARABS car plate on auction in UAE… for a starting amount of £250,000”. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/arabs-car-plate-on-auction-in-uae-for-a-starting-amount-of-250-000-2013-02-11-1.494485
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.