Tuesday 26 October 2010

Who Said License Plates Are Boring?

I mentioned in my post on 26 September  that I am glad I'm not an expat in China as I imagine it would be a billion times harder than it is in the UK (and even more crowded!).  There are so many things that, in my opinion, would be much harder to get your head around.  We've already discusssed the food, and now I've just come across this article which discusses one of the many Chinese superstitions.  Interesting view from an expat in China, but its not actually the superstitions that I'm interested in - its the newsworthy part of the article:  As of October 20, 2010, China will not be issuing number plates with the number 4 on them.

Very lucky Chinese license plate
The article's author, Peter Foster, explains the number 4, when spoken in Chinese, is similar to the word "death" and is considered highly unlucky.   He also mentions that in Bejing there is a traffic limiting programme which assigns each day of the week a number and if your number plate ends in that number, you are forbidden to drive that day.  Apparently, the day that bans 4 is heavily congested since people avoid having 4 on their plate, but the day that bans 8 is not nearly as congested since 8 is the number of good fortune and many people choose to have it on their number plate.   Wait... You're bored aren't you?   You don't really care about license/number plates in China or any other country do you?

It's time I make a confession to my ultimate nerd obsession.  I am obsessed with UK number plates (or registration plates as they are officially called). Why would I care about UK number plates, you ask?  Because they tell secrets and can sometimes cost more than a car!

The secrets:  Any UK number plate issued after December 31, 1999 tells you the age of the car and where it was registered.  This is where the nerd part kicks in - I am constantly looking at the age of people's cars and scowling at those who have the newest ones.  Here's how it works:  Current number plates that are not personalized ones always have seven characters.  They will begin with two letters, then two numbers, then a space then three letters.  The two letters at the beginning tell you where the car was first registered and the numbers will tell you the date the car was originally registered (i.e. the age of the car). The last three letters are completely random.
To tell where your car was "born", here is the list of memory tags.  Ages are recorded in two formats - if the car was registered between March and August, it will display the year clearly (01 for 2001, 05 for 2005, etc), but if the car was registered between September and February of the following year, it will display the year plus 50 (58 for 2008, 60 for 2010, etc).  

In the example below, the car was registered in Birmingham and was registered between September 2001 - February 2002, which would make the car a 2001 model.
Unlike American license plates, UK number plates stay with the car for the life of the car unless someone wants a personalized plate which brings me to the next cool thing about number plates. 

The ££:  My mom once had a personalized license plate that read ND FAN and referred to her love of Neil Diamond. Unfortunately for any Neil Diamond fans in the UK, this plate is not allowed.  Personalized plates in the UK must have a combination of letters and numbers which means that people have to be a bit more creative if they want to display their name or other popular choices.  
There are some commonly accepted numbers that take the place of letters - a 4 is an A (probably not if you are Chinese), a 3 is an E,  a 5 is an S and 7 is a T.   So, if my name was Sarah, I could have a plate that read "54RAH" and most people would know what I meant.  However, any Sarahs out there would need to not only find the owner of that plate currently, but would have to have a LOT of money if they wanted to tell the world their name of the back of their car. Personalized plates like that or something "cute" like K155 ME are often sold by their original owner either on one of many websites or through auctions and can fetch big bucks...really big bucks!  
I just found the plate reading ROS 5 (Ross) for sale on a website for an astonishing £535,500.  If this was sold at this price, it would be a new UK record.  The most expensive plate sold in the UK was " F 1" (as in Formula One racing) which sold for £440,625.

Here's some other pricey plates:
"1 D"       £325,411
"VIP 1"    £285,000
"1 HRH"  £113,815

See... aren't licence plates cool?  :)


  1. I love love your post. This is exactly something I would have blogged about. I used your link and found my car was originally registered in Leeds :) This will be such a fun game in the car on road trips ! You officially have my very favorite blog. Solid every time and a factoid geek like myself ;)

  2. Aww Laura, thank you so much. My husband read this post and just rolled his eyes as if anyone other than me would care about something so random, but now I can tell him I'm not the only one :)

  3. Make me number three (or E) because I find it highly interesting as well! Oh and I can't even imagine living in China, by the way, being banned from driving on the day my license plate ends in? Crazy