While some may simply be adding a touch of personality to their vehicle, cars with a plate transfer can often be hiding something sinister, according to provenance check experts, HPI.

Most car owners are purchasing personalised number plates to reflect their name or nickname, life status - or simply to hide the true age of their vehicle.

Analysis of HPI checks conducted in 2014 has revealed that 1 in 5 cars checked have undergone, with 'Performance Cars & Hot Hatches' proving to be the most likely type of car to undergo a plate change.

Despite most changes are innocently made, it is only once a provenance check has been carried out that used car buyers can rest assured that they know the true identity of the vehicle.

On average, every day, 41 vehicles that are checked by HPI are identified as being recorded as stolen by the police.

"Whilst they can be a great gift or purchase to stand out from the crowd, it is really important that used car buyers recognise that personalised plates can be hiding more than they may think," urged Neil Hodson, Managing Director for HPI.

"For example, the vehicle may be a stolen car, which has had a legitimate number plate applied to conceal its stolen status. This is commonly known as car cloning.

"Buyers can find themselves out of pocket if they have mistakenly purchased a stolen car, as the police can remove the vehicle from their possession, resulting in them losing both the car and the cash they paid for it."

The most expensive purchase of a personalised license plate went for £518,000, as the number plate '25 O' was bought by a Ferrari dealer and is believed to be on a Ferrari 250SWB, once owned by musician Eric Clapton.

The top 5 types of cars most likely to undergo a plate change:

1. Performance Cars & Hot Hatches - 56%

2. Roadsters & Cabriolets - 42%

3. Coupes - 41%

4. 4x4's - 39%

5. Executive Cars - 37%

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