Meet the farmer turning number plates into a cash cow

Farmer Olly Hares number plates business lifestyle cars advice - Jay Williams
Farmer Olly Hares number plates business lifestyle cars advice - Jay Williams

A personalised registration number won’t make a jot of difference to the speed of your vehicle, but one in 12 Britons has splashed out on them. Now, the newest car fad not only bolsters your status but, with a dash of humour, it also proves you’re not a stick-in-the-mud.

From HI6 MOO and HAY 8OY to BA12 HAY, farm-inspired number plates are here, courtesy of business-brained beef farmer Olly Hares. You may have seen one already driving along a mud-splattered country lane or got a whiff of HU63 POO when picking up your free-range turkey from the farm this winter.

I only recently discovered these plates while driving along the green and scenic A51 between Staffordshire and Shropshire. I was behind a lorry carrying livestock and the number plate ended in MOO. Only the following week, I was stuck behind a hay lorry and the silver lining to driving so slowly was its number plate: HAY 8OY brought a smile to my face again, and as the hay flew past my windscreen, I felt compelled to investigate where it was from and who owned it.

I discovered that these are all bona fide number plates, thanks to Hares who runs Farmplates, a website dedicated to selling vehicle registrations that reference farms, farm animals and our green and verdant UK soils. Hares tells me he started his site after making a numberplate sale through the auction website eBay: “I sold the plate J30 COW, which I had purchased from eBay, to a young farmer who had no idea of the process of transferring a plate,” he said.

“I sorted everything for him, so all he had to do was put the plates on his car. Then I thought there must be a market for these farm-related plates. I’m a ­cattle farmer, but it suited me as a bit of a diversification that I could pick up and put down whether I was busy or not. I could do all of the trading on my phone while doing other jobs.”

Taking the plates to market

After that sale, Hares set up Farmplates in 2018 and later started his Facebook page to promote it. He says his plates sell well and that the most popular ones end with the suffix MOO and GUN. Farmers and country folk also enjoy sheep and cows, as well as horse-related plates for equestrian lovers, says Hares. Pigs and chickens, he adds, are less popular.

Farmplates offers the complete service of finding the registration you want for yourself or as a gift, ordering the plates and making the transfer, if you haven’t done it before. According to the Farmplates website, the whole process from purchase of plates to driving away with the new registration takes about two weeks. Hares also buys number plates if you’re looking to sell one and will market your plate for you. So, if you’re a struggling farmer, you could be quids in with a car-plate sale.

Victoria Beckham number plate - Shutterstock
Victoria Beckham number plate - Shutterstock

According to Hares: “It’s easier to sell plates after payday.” Registrations that spell out specific words, such as heifer (HE13 FER), are easier to sell. One fun sale, says Hares, was big guns (B166 UNS). He adds, “Rude plates are easy to sell and I’ve sold two of those, including one that a customer bought but his wife wouldn’t let him use. He’s since come back to me to sell it on again.

Strong money

“In the current climate, plates are getting dearer. There are a lot of people with lower-value plates trying to sell them, but the higher-value one-off words are making strong money.”

Hares reckons farmers aren’t struggling as much as you might think. He says that instead they’re spending around payday, and often spending quite a lot. At the moment, it would seem some are up for splashing the cash, with a handful of plate sales reaching £9,000.

Says Hares: “I held an auction of plates in 2020 where we sold more than 50 in one day. We had BA12 HAY, a poor man’s bale hay, and that made £2,550. The guide price for it was just £400, so we did really well. The most in-demand plates are related to cull stock and plates for butchers or men killing the animals. I could have sold CU11 RAM and CU11 MOO many times.” CU11 COW is currently set to fetch tens of thousands.

olly hares farm number plates - Jay Williams
olly hares farm number plates - Jay Williams

As an entrepreneurial farmer with a sense of humour, Hares backs his own buzz and has two vehicles with farmy numberplates – BB09 COW and V23 MOO – adding: “My personal favourites include MOO, which I have liked since I was a child. I do Farmplates as a bit of a hobby, but I’ve lost count of how many I’ve sold since I started. It’s ­probably more than 300, with dozens selling above the £5,000 threshold.”

As for the next steps with Farmplates, Hares tells me: “I’ll keep going!” Just a few months ago, he was able to invest in a new website where people can buy direct from him (farmplates.co.uk). He says: “My new website stops haggling. Farmers haggling on plate prices was one of the things that surprised me most. With selling plates to farmers directly, on my website, they very rarely haggle on the price, though there are always one or two who try to knock me down.”

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