Drivers who whizz around with personalised number plates are much more likely to have their vehicles broken into or stolen, a report has claimed.
Ahead of the new batch of '68' number plates launching on 1 September, it's emerged that the correlation between owning a personalised number plate and having your car stolen is actually significant.
According to MoneySupermarket , drivers who own personalised plates are 50% more likely to become a target to thieves.
In Britain, almost a fifth of us admit we've owned a personalised number plate in the past, with Londoners most likely to own one and those in Northern Ireland the least.
And they're not cheap either - starting at around £200 and, depending on the desired format, going into the thousands. In fact, a recent report by insurer Admiral found that £111 million was spent on private plates in Britain last year.
And, in rare cases, the price of a distinctive number plate can outweigh the price of the car it sits on. Back in April 2018 the driver of a Bugatti Veyron attempted to sell their ‘F1’ plate for a staggering £15 million.
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Mercedes cars are the most popular among personalised plate drivers, with 12% of all vanity plate owners driving this brand of car.
However, despite the high number of people who own - or have previously owned - one, data reveals that a large portion of Brits feel they send out a negative message.
A third automatically class someone with a personalised plate as a ‘poser’, 27% believe they are an ‘attention seeker’, and one in four think they have ‘more money than sense’.
"If you do choose to get one, there are a few things to consider," explained Kevin Pratt, at MoneySupermarket.
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“Firstly, you need to ensure that your insurer is aware of your new plate details, so it can be reflected in your policy - your cover could be invalidated otherwise.
“Owners of a personalised plate should also be conscious that in the event their vehicle is written-off or stolen and they make a claim on their insurance, the car will become the property of the insurer, along with the plate.
“To avoid this happening, it’s vital the driver tells the DVLA and also the insurer that they wish to keep the plate. If they don’t do this and the car is sent to the scrap yard or the plate is sold on, they’ll lose all rights to use the personalised plate in the future," Pratt added.
How to protect your vehicle - whatever your number plate
Government figures show that exterior fittings (such as hub caps, wheel trims and number plates) were the most targeted items by thieves in 2017. It found the most likely time of day for incidents to occur was during the week, while up to three quarters of them took place while parked at home between the hours of 6am and 6pm.
Thankfully there are some preventative steps you can take to protect your vehicle.
"Stolen car number plates are commonly used by criminals for all sorts of offences, including speeding, parking offences, fuel theft from garages and vehicle identity cloning," explained Roland Head, founder of SimpleMotoring.co.uk.
When it comes to parking, aim for a well-lit area where there's surveillance or even a protected space where possible - such as a garage or driveway. The key is to deter thieves, and if your vehicle is in clear view they may think twice about breaking in.
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Statistics also show that break-ins by entering a car through an unlocked door have increased by 30% since 2006 - so ALWAYS double check your car is locked.
Hide all valuables - such as sat navs and handbags - even when you're on the move. It's also advised to never keep items in the boot of your car - especially lucrative ones such as golf kits and equipment.
'Smash and grab' crimes can occur when your car is at a standstill, for example when you’re stuck in traffic. It's always a good idea to keep your items out of sight - even if you're in the car, and make sure your vehicle is locked at all times when still.
The police also claim a deterrent effect is to etch your car’s registration number onto the windows. This can "put criminals off" by making them harder to flog on the black market.