Understanding vehicle registration plates

With the recent launch of the new ‘68’ plate registration, this blog helps you to understand the meaning of your vehicle’s number plate.

A vehicle registration is made up of three parts and all have a specified meaning. We hope this blog will shed some light on vehicle registrations and as always, if there are any questions please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Happy reading!

Since September 2001, British number plates are arranged in a format of two letters, two numbers followed by three letters. New registrations happen twice a year, in March and September. The current format of the number plates is made up of three parts; local memory tag, age identifier and random letters.

First two letters

The first two letters of a number plate are an area code, this was originally to refer to the local DVLA office where the vehicle was registered. In 2013 however, the DVLA transferred to complete all registrations online directly by new car dealerships. Car dealerships are allocated numbers that reflect their traditional area code.

Therefore, if you buy a new Nissan car from Peterborough (for example) the start of the number plate will be different to if you brought in London. This is due to the area code and allocation given by the DVLA.

Two numbers

The two numbers within a number plate are known as an ‘age identifier.’ These tell you which six-month period the vehicle was registered. Every six months the number changes when a new registration is released, March and September.

The March code is the same as the last two numbers of the year, so a car that is registered between March and August 2018 has the number 18.

Vehicles that are registered during the months September to February have the code as the current year plus 50. So, if a car is registered from September 2018 to February 2019 it will have the number 68 (= 18 + 50).

Last three letters

The last three letters are random. New car dealerships are allocated a batch of registration numbers by the DVLA which often run sequentially. When they have used up all of those, they will be allocated another batch.

Did you also know that the letter Q and I are never used in a number plate and Z is only ever used as part of the final three random letters, never in an area code!

To find out more about the rules and regulations regarding number plates when travelling abroad and private plates please visit the official DVLA website.