Personalised numbers plates that refer to Covid-19 and the pandemic have been banned by the DVSA.

As revealed in the Sunday Telegraph, the government agency blocked the creation and sale of the virus car registrations. There is concern that they would cause “offence, embarrassment and are in poor taste”.

The decision to “suppress” registrations of plates such as ‘COV 1D’, ‘COV 11D’ and ‘COV 111D’ followed a similar move in South Australia. Last year, a BMW with the plate ‘COVID19’ was spotted at Adelaide Airport prompting immediate outrage.
“We suppress any registration number combinations that may cause offence, embarrassment or are in poor taste” states a DVLA spokesman. “This includes combinations that could be interpreted as referring to Covid-19.”

Companies that sell and auction number plates, such as, were also informed. They have been told that COVID related plates had been banned because they “would be insensitive to those who have suffered as a result of the pandemic, lost loved ones.”

While the DVLA has always blocked combinations of letters and numbers that could be deciphered as swear words or having a sexual or offensive connotation, the decision to ban words linked to a health crisis is unique.

Healthy market

Meanwhile, sales of plates celebrating the NHS and health care services have increased. Many are seeing a dramatic rise in price.
Unique number plates can change hands for between £150 and £200,000. As well as personal appeal, some of the most valuable ones are seen as potential investments.
Last year, the number plate ‘1NHS’ sold at the height of the pandemic for £120,000 at an online auction. This is now due to go up for auction again.
Jason Wilkes, founder and chief executive of CarReg which trades in personalised plates, said: “Number plate buyers bored at home during lockdowns have really caught on to buying unique registrations.
“Backed by a massive government campaign, NHS plates are now collectors’ items and have a real value.”
The surge in sales of healthcare related plates has prompted CarReg to give 10% of such sales to NHS charities.
One plate which read ‘WHO5 NHS’ is currently on the market for £11,000, despite previously having little value. However, generic words that have become inextricably linked to the pandemic are still being traded. For instance, ‘SH18 LD’ is currently on sale for £5,174, while ‘PAN 11C’ is available for £5,799. ‘PPE1’ has an asking price of £25,000.

A DVLA spokesman says: “ ‘1 NHS’ was available to buy in our July 2020 auction and the buyer cancelled the sale. As the number has not been sold it will be offered again at a future auction.”

Personal preferences

The DVLA had seen a 40% rise in the number of personalised registrations bought last year.
“The vast majority of personalised registrations are made available for sale. The agency holds back any combinations that may cause offence, embarrassment or are in poor taste.”

The DVLA began selling private plates in 1989, more than 80 years after car registrations were first introduced. In thirty years, six million personalised or unique private plates had been sold, generating around £2 billion for the Treasury.
Demand for specific plates rise and fall in value as trends come and go. For instance, the registration ‘MEG 4N’ fetched just over £12,000 nearly 20 year ago. But since the marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry it is believed to now be worth nearly £50,000.
In recent years, the name ‘Jack’ has increased in popularity. The plate ‘JAC 1K’ sold for just under £9,000 13 year ago, but experts believe the increase in demand means it is worth at least five times that figure.