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Registration Plate or Vanity Plate?


There has been plenty of talk already this year about the possible effect of a 13 registration plate on new car sales next year. Putting superstition aside, does our registration system need an overhaul? But how important is the number and county identifier on the Irish registration plate. Are registration plates more of a vanity plate than something to identify our cars with?

We might not like to admit it but every day we make judgments and assertions about people based on appearance. What job do they have? How do they dress? What sort of house do they live in?

It’s the same story when it comes to cars. The type of car, size, and colour, even the size of the car’s alloy wheels, can give us pre- conceived ideas about what sort of person the driver of that car is.

And let us not forget the registration plate too.  Could there be any more of a blatant advertisement as a brand new registration? At the height of the boom a brand new car seemed like a good idea to tell the world that we were doing well.

It is interesting to note that in most European countries it is not immediately obvious how old the car is from its license plate. Indeed in some countries, the registration plate stays with the owner and not the car. But in Ireland we can glean a lot of information from the registration plate. How old is the car? Where was the car registered? And of course these things carry their own prejudices. It begs the question whether registration plates should more accurately be called vanity plates.

So are we so shallow that we only buy new cars because we want a spanking new registration? Of course not. There are lots of reasons for buying a new car. People who rely heavily on their cars to get to work or even use their car for work want a reliable car. A new car is likely to be more comfortable and safer than its older counterpart. The newer model of the car might also just be better looking!

But would we be so quick to buy a new car if the age of the car could not be deciphered so easily from the registration plate? If there was not such an obvious system of registration in Ireland would new car sales plummet because the overt prestige of having a “12” would be gone? It would really challenge our reasoning when it comes to buying a new car.

Of course identifying cars by county means that there is more snobbery when it comes to registration plates than just the age of the car. Some of this is tribal. If you lived in Cork you might not be so keen to drive a car with a Kerry registration and vice versa! In France there was uproar in rural areas a few years ago when the French Government proposed that the regional identifier be removed from the registration plates on all new French cars. So it’s not unusual that you might want to display your county pride on your registration plate.

Then what about the condition of the car and the sort of roads it’s spent its life on? It is hard to shake off the perception that a city car has spent its life in traffic whereas a country car has spent its life bouncing along pot-hole shrewn roads! All these things might colour your choice when it comes to buying a new or used car.

While the current system of registering cars in Ireland is under consideration, the proposal put forward by the SIMI to have two new registrations each year, one in January and one in July, means that the year and county identifier will not be going anywhere in the near future. If anything will a system like this make us even more registration plate conscious?

How important is the registration number and county to you? If you were buying a second hand car would the county registration put you off? Leave a comment and let us know your opinion.

11th October, 2012

Author: wheelsforwomen

Ireland's first and only motoring website for women. Car reviews, News & Advice written by women for women. We make it all female friendly

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