Number plates in Shanghai now cost more than a small car in China.

Over the weekend, about 9,000 people bid for 6,000 car plate numbers, which were snapped up at an average price of 47,711 yuan.

That’s more than the 39,800 yuan price tag for Chery Automobile Co.’s 1.1 litre-engine QQ subcompact, one of China’s hottest-selling compact cars.

It is also more than twice the per-capita disposable annual income in the city, China’s richest, and the highest average price since Shanghai started the monthly auction in 2002 to limit traffic in the congested city.

Xinhua did not give the highest price in the license plate auction but said the lowest was 47,200 yuan.

Other Chinese cities auction off auspicious plate numbers such as those featuring the number “8”, which sounds similar to the expression “to get rich”.

On Sunday, a man bought the number A000A1 for 420,000 yuan for his Mercedes-Benz in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, local media said. The initial bidding price was 5,000 yuan.

A pilot scheme for customized numbers in four cities, including the capital Beijing, was scrapped days after its launch in 2002, however, after Chinese drivers created such inventive combinations as FBI001, SEX001 and IAM007 for their license plates.