Personalised plates are car registrations that read a name or word specific to the owner or their vehicle. They are made up of letters and numbers and follow the legal formats of number plates set by the DVLA. The most popular personalised number plates such as MOD 31S (Models) and RO 55 (Ross) read precisely what they are meant to say whilst certain less desirable ones require a few (illegal) tweaks. Name plates are extremely rare so it is more common to see car registrations displaying the owner's initials. There are many more initial number plates on the market and they are often easier on the wallet when purchasing a personalised number plate.
In the past personalised plates were associated with the business elite and people wanting to show the world their success. In today's motoring world however personalised plates are bought by people from all walks of life who want to add the finishing touch to their vehicles or make their car stand out on the road. Some personalised plates are bought as a present to mark a special date or occasion whilst other people buy car registrations as an investment and sell them on for profit. Whatever the reason, it is clear on any journey that the popularity of personalised plates is growing all the time
In other places the popularity of such plates is just as strong with many countries issuing what are known as vanity plates to personalise the nation's vehicles. Vanity plates are similar to personalised number plates in that they are all unique and are specific to the owner or their vehicle. The main difference to personalised plates however is that they are typically be made up from 6 or 7 characters (letters and numbers) in any order with no specific format. For this reason vanity plates can read pretty much anything however as with DVLA registrations, obscene and offensive words are banned.
In the US vanity plates are hugely popular and can be spotted in every state. The list of personalised number plates on the roads in the US is endless and includes countless classic examples such as FAST (assigned to a 1986 Corvette Pace car), HI-TECH and SNKBITE (spotted on a Dodge Viper). Many of the vanity plates in the US are used for comedy value or to portray a certain image. FBI AGNT for example is not assigned to a Federal agent's vehicle, it is misleadingly owned by an insurance agent working for Farm Bureau Insurance.
Australia is another country which has embraced the use of vanity plates with each state administering their own personalised registrations. Many states charge an annual fee for the rights to these cherished marks and in Queensland the personalised number plate scheme funds Road Safety activities throughout the state.
Recently there has been a growing call for the DVLA to issue US style vanity plates in the UK however there is a heated debate going on between the government, police and number plate dealers over the implications that the introduction of vanity plates would have. However as the current format of DVLA number plates has the scope to last until the year 2049 the introduction of vanity plates to the UK is surely still a long way off and the popularity of personalised number plates will continue to grow.