As new registration number day dawns, you would expect a flurry of activity at car dealerships across the UK, gearing themselves up for the deluge of customers anxious to take delivery of their new 72-plate car.

But as the 1st September new plate day arrives and the ‘72’ marking takes over from last March’s ‘22’ indicator, a new survey reveals that less than 5% of car buyers are actually bothered about having the latest number on their registration plates.

The findings, from independent car and van retailer (and commercial partner of The Car Expert) , shows that buyers now have much more important things on their mind when it comes to getting their next car.

Top of the list for nearly two thirds (63%) of would-be buyers is the vehicle’s fuel type – petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric. And, in the middle of the current cost-of-living crisis, this is closely followed by price (52%) and running costs (47%).

The importance of brand image was next: 27% of those surveyed saying the status of the badge on the front of their car is the thing they considered most, while the overall look of the vehicle and its mileage were also important considerations.

And even deliberations such as colour, safety features, comfort, availability and on-board technology all ranked more highly than the age identifier on the registration plate. Many drivers still do not understand the current UK plate system and those that do know how it works are no longer drawn to the attraction of having the latest number.

“Many of us will remember just how big a deal the launch of a new registration plate used to be,” says Dean Walker, director of stock and purchasing at Motorpoint. “Dealerships would open at midnight, with customers queuing up to take delivery of their new car so they could be among the first on the road with the new reg.

“But our study confirms that that this is no longer a major factor in the decision-making process for car buyers. It would seem that many people are still unsure how the registration number system works so don’t realise ‘22’ was released in March and that ‘72’ will be the next launch.

“Those who do understand are either not bothered that their number plate identifies their car’s age or know how easy it is to put a personalised registration on their vehicle after buying it.

“It seems like long lead times and the fact that new cars can depreciate in value when driven off the forecourt is impacting the allure of the new car and driving buyers towards the used market where cars can be driven away the same day.”

Motorpoint says it will take the findings of the survey on board after confirming the impact the cost-of-living crisis has already had on buyers’ decisions.

“These results show just how much things have changed as people have started to feel the financial pinch. The fact that a vehicle’s fuel type is now the most important consideration underlines that.

“But it isn’t just the case that everyone’s now looking at electric vehicles. We’re seeing lots of interest across all fuel types and in particular diesel, where people recognise the superior fuel economy it can offer on long journeys, for example.”

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