It’s not exactly the number of the beast, (that’s 666, of course, or a hapless 999, upside down in a ditch) but to some, the notion of having a new motor with number 13 adorning the front is about as attractive a driving proposition as an angry rat in a glove box.
Crash data analysis shows no spike in claims around the 13th of any month and a 13-plate motor should behave no less nicely than any other. Nevertheless, fear of reduced future value may be more of a rational reason to avoid investing in the new prefix this spring or summer.
While one in ten drivers questioned by the AA thought they would avoid the number if they could, around a quarter of all drivers seriously considered it might hamper any future sale of a new-used car. Unscrupulous dealers may sadly have yet another weapon for their armoury when it comes to assessing a punter’s trade-in: “Nah mate, no-one wants ’em, they’re unlucky, you see?”
1. How powerful is superstition? Last year, the DVLA was reported by some media to be planning to offer new-car buyers an option to dodge this superstition-stirring plate, while in Ireland there are plans afoot to adapt the number to ‘131’ when it comes up in their own system. But the best alternative to be offered to UK new-car buyers was that you would either revert to a ‘62’ (which certainly would maim your residuals by around £500) or fork out for a private alternative.
2. Thankfully then, 13 is here to stay, perhaps not least because of what the private plate industry calls the “scrabble value” of a 13 in the mix. It brings in all sorts of lucrative opportunities: treat the 1 and the 3 as a ‘B’ and it’s easy to see why the DVLA wants to make a quick buck on such novelties as KG13SPY (at £699, it costs more than most Ladas) £799 for NO13 CAR (perhaps an Pagani Zonda?) and ultimate Valentine plate FE13 LUV, a gift at £399. Let’s just ignore such puerile delights as YO13CAR, RU13 BER, GO13SHT et al, though the DVLA has them all up for grabs. Adapting your plate is technically bad luck as it’s illegal, though the rates for successful prosecution in the UK are laughable.
3. Look further afield and you could be forgiven for concluding there’s something unlucky in any digital combination. Drive in Afghanistan, if you have the bottle, and you’ll not find too many cars marked with a number 39. That’s despite the fact that this prefix was the first to be adopted in accordance with a new system instigated in 2011. The number is allegedly so hapless you might as well invite the Taliban to use your grille for target practice. The idea was shunned so much that sales of new motors took a dramatic dip.
4. Eight, of course, is a digit that rich motorists strive to acquire in the Far East. In Hong Kong, it’s a must-have for limos. But in Japan, it can be seen as double bad luck – curiously because ‘four’ in Japan is pronounced ‘shi’ – the same word for death. BMW might want to hastily rethink eastern exports of its new 4 Series? Nine is also bad there, so inheriting a 49 on your grille means you might as well buy a bus pass instead. Four in Germany, incidentally, signifies a lucky clover leaf and is a welcome number.
5. In general, number 13 gets a kicking wherever it goes thanks to its association with the last supper’s table plan. Ironic then that in southern Italy, the home of many an omen-wary Catholic, it’s considered good fortune. It’s the number of St Anthony, the saint of Naples. As a double irony, he died at just 36.
6. It’s easy to offend certain cultures with the wrong plate, and virtually impossible to know some of the more obscure unfortunate combinations. In Mandarin, 250 is slang for ‘imbecile’, while 748 can be read as “Why don’t you go and die?” The innocuous-looking 167, meanwhile, in Cantonese is commonly read as a term for male genitalia. And you’d never flog the plate 5354 to any Cantonese: it means something neither dead nor alive.