The objective of this study was to assess the impact of using different relative economic values (REVs) in selection indices on predicted financial and trait gains from selection of sires of cows and on the choice of leading Holstein bulls available in the UK dairy industry. Breeding objective traits were milk yield, fat yield, protein yield, lifespan, mastitis, non-return rate, calving interval and lameness. Relative importance of a trait, as estimated by a.h2, was only moderately related to the rate of financial loss or total economic merit (DTEM) per percentage under- or overestimation of REV (r = 0.38 and 0.29, respectively) as a result of the variance–covariance structure of traits. The effects on TEM of under- or overestimating trait REVs were non-symmetrical. TEM was most sensitive to incorrect REVs for protein, fat, milk and lifespan and least sensitive to incorrect calving interval, lameness, non-return and mastitis REVs. A guide to deciding which dairy traits require the most rigorous analysis in the calculation of their REVs is given. Varying the REVs within a fairly wide range resulted in different bulls being selected by index and their differing predicted transmitting abilities would result in the herds moving in different directions in the long term (20 years). It is suggested that customized indices, where the farmer creates rankings of bulls tailored to their specific farm circumstances, can be worthwhile.