If you’re looking into getting a new car, whether its a new Citroen, PeugeotDS, or Commercial, then September 2019 is the perfect time to make a purchase with the new 69 Reg release. With this in mind, we have decided to create a guide dedicated to number plates!

History of Number Plates

The number plate has been around for many years, longer than there have been automobiles on our roads. The first country to introduce it was France with the passing of the Paris Police Ordinance on August 14th, 1893. Other European countries started to follow suit, with the Netherlands becoming the first country to introduce a nationally registered license plate in 1898, naming it a ‘driving permit’. Eventually, the UK also adopted the number plate using index marks of one or two letters. These were issued to various licensing authorities in 1903 when most ‘powers that be’ allotted registrations starting at 1. It is believed that the first ever UK registration was DY1 from Hastings, Kent registered on November 23rd, 1903.Three letters/ three number series were subsequently introduced in 1932. All marks were allocated by the mid-1950s, and annotations issued by certain authorities were reserved with letters following numbers. Some continued to issue ‘forward’ marks (numbers following letters) until the mid-’60s. Between 1963 and 1965, authorities started to add a suffix to the number plate. Until 1967 the registration year ran from January 1st to December 1st which was then changed to August 1st. August 1st, 1983 saw the introduction of a ‘prefix’ system using a single letter to show the year of first registration with an ‘A’ prefix. This method identified the age of the car with the first letter of the registration, which changed every August. The second and third numbers on the plate were random, with two of the last three letters denoting the registration area. The last number was also chosen at random. This classification remained until the current number plate system was launched. Today’s approach features an ‘age identifier’ in the middle of the plate and has been in force since September 2001.

Why do cars have number plates?

Cars were growing ever more popular in the UK. As demand increased the British government decided to take steps to regulate vehicles on the nation’s roads. Number plates would also be useful in the event of an accident or crime, making it easier for the Government to track down the owner of the vehicle and take appropriate action. The 1903 Motor Car Act stated that all vehicles on British roads must be owner-registered and display number plates making them easy to identify. This issue wasn’t enforced until 1904 when it became a legal requirement for every car holder in the UK. Since the act’s introduction, most numbering systems have been used to identify cars and their owners, with the first system operating from the beginning of 1932.

How does the number plate system work?

The scheme in use today has three main sections. The first two letters represent the ‘local memory tag’ indicating where the vehicle was registered. The third and fourth digits are known as the ‘age identifier’ and change every six months in March and September. The digits in March will always be the same as the last two digits of the current year. For example, a car registered in London from March this year would have the digits LA18. In September, 50 is added to this number, so if the same car was registered in September 2018 the number plate would be LA68. The final three letters are chosen at random, generated by a computer, but are carefully checked to ensure no offensive results are created! If you want a new car with the latest number plate, you can either wait until March 1st or September 1st, or net a good deal earlier before the new plates are released.

How to calculate the age of your car

Calculating the age of your car is handy when you come to assess how much insurance you should be paying. When the government introduced the current car registration system in 2001 with the 51 plate, many people became confused and didn’t understand the move from the old format; especially when the next plate change occurred in March 2002 making the new number plate sequence 02. If you want to determine the age of a car for insurance or purchasing purposes, it’s very easy once you understand the way the ‘age identifier’ alters over time. Simply look at the third and fourth digits on the number plate known as the ‘age identifiers’. For example, if these digits are 05, then the car was registered after March 2005, if digits are 55 then the car would be registered after August 1st, 2005. Here is a table containing age identifiers:

Year 1 March to end of August 1 September to end of February
2001/02 51
2002/03 2 52
2003/04 3 53
2004/05 4 54
2005/06 5 55
2006/07 6 56
2007/08 7 57
2008/09 8 58
2009/10 9 59
2010/11 10 60
2011/12 11 61
2012/13 12 62
2013/14 13 63
2014/15 14 64
2015/16 15 65
2016/17 16 66
2017/18 17 67
2018/19 18 68
2019/20 19 69
2020/21 20 70
2021/22 21 71
2022/23 and continues on until 50/00 in 2050/51

What does a car number plate mean?

Registration plates in the UK usually determine the age and place of origin of the car. All cars must by law have a number plate displayed if they are used on public roads. The system used today consists of two letters, two digits, and then three letters. The first group states the place of origin, the second is the ‘age identifier.’ The last are randomly selected letters with no meaning, to make the car registration unique. The current scheme contains sufficient numbers to run up until 2051.

Car Registration Plate Diagram

The ‘local memory tag’ which is the first group of letters marks the exact office where the vehicle has been registered. These first two letters denote the name of the broader area where the plate is registered. The DVLA provides a list containing all possible plate permutations detailed below:

Regional Identifiers Region DVLA Office
AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG, AH, AJ, AK, AL, AM, AN Anglia Peterborough
AO, AP, AR, AS, AT, AU Anglia Norwich
AV, AW, AX, AY Anglia Ipswich
BA, BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BJ, BK, BL, BM, BN, BO, BP, BR, BS, BT, BU, BV, BW, BX, BY Birmingham Birmingham
CA, CB, CC, CD, CE, CF, CG, CH, CJ, CK, CL, CM, CN, CO Cymru Cardiff
CP, CR, CS, CT, CU, CV Cymru Swansea
CW, CX, CY Cymru Bangor
DA, DB, DC, DD, DE, DF, DG, DH, DJ, DK Deeside to Shrewsbury Chester
DL, DM, DN, DO, DP, DR, DS, DT, DU, DV, DW, DX, DY Deeside to Shrewsbury Shrewsbury
EA, EB, EC, ED, EE, EF, EG, EH, EJ, EK, EL, EM, EN, EO, EP, ER, ES, ET, EU, EV, EW, EX, EY Essex Chelmsford
FA, FB, FC, FD, FE, FF, FG, FH, FJ, FK, FL, FM, FN, FP Forest and Fens Nottingham
FR, FS, FT, FV, FW, FX, FY Forest and Fens Lincoln
GA, GB, GC, GD, GE, GF, GG, GH, GJ, GK, GL, GM, GN, GO Garden of England Maidstone
GP, GR, GS, GT, GU, GV, GX, GY Garden of England Brighton
HA, HB, HC, HD, HE, HF, HG, HH, HJ Hampshire and Dorset Bournemouth
HK, HL, HM, HN, HO, HP, HR, HS, HT, HU, HV Hampshire and Dorset Portsmouth
HW Hampshire and Dorset Portsmouth (Used exclusively for the Isle of Wight)
HX, HY Hampshire and Dorset Portsmouth
KA, KB, KC, KD, KE, KF, KG, KH, KJ, KK, KL Luton
KM, KN, KO, KP, KR, KS, KT, KU, KV, KW, KX, KY Northampton
LA, LB, LC, LD, LE, LF, LG, LH, LJ London Wimbledon
LK, LL, LM, LN, LO, LP, LR, LS, LT London Stanmore
LU, LV, LW, LX, LY London Sidcup
MA, MB, MC, MD, ME, MF, MG, MH, MJ, MK, ML, MM, MN, MO, MP, MR, MS, MT, MU, MV, MW, MX, MY Manchester and Merseyside Manchester
NA, NB, NC, ND, NE, NF, NG, NH, NJ, NK, NL, NM, NN, NO North Newcastle
NP, NR, NS, NT, NU, NV, NW, NX, NY North Stockton
OA, OB, OC, OD, OE, OF, OG, OH, OJ, OK, OL, OM, ON, OO, OP, OR, OS, OT, OU, OV, OW, OX, OY Oxford Oxford
PA, PB, PC, PD, PE, PF, PG, PH, PJ, PK, PL, PM, PN, PO, PP, PR, PS, PT Preston Preston
PU, PV, PW, PX, PY Preston Carlisle
RA, RB, RC, RD, RE, RF, RG, RH, RJ, RK, RL, RM, RN, RO, RP, RR, RS, RT, RU, RV, RW, RX, RY Reading Reading
SA, SB, SC, SD, SE, SF, SG, SH, SJ Scotland Glasgow
SK, SL, SM, SN, SO Scotland Edinburgh
SP, SR, SS, ST Scotland Dundee
SU, SV, SW Scotland Aberdeen
SX, SY Scotland Inverness
VA, VB, VC, VD, VE, VF, VG, VH, VJ, VK, VL, VM, VN, VO, VP, VR, VS, VT, VU, VV, VW, VX, VY Severn Valley Worcester
WA, WB, WC, WD, WE, WF, WG, WH, WJ West of England Exeter
WK, WL West of England Truro
WM, WN, WO, WP, WR, WS, WT, WU, WV, WW, WX, WY West of England Bristol
YA, YB, YC, YD, YE, YF, YG, YH, YJ, YK Yorkshire Leeds
YL, YM, YN, YO, YP, YR, YS, YT, YU Yorkshire Sheffield
YV, YW, YX, YY Yorkshire Beverley

Number Plate Rules

The DVLA released all the details for compulsory number plates on September 1st, 2001 along with the new system. The chosen font in current use aims to make number plates easy to read. Any number plate on a car registered after this date must contain all the following correct features.

Character Font

All UK number plates use a font called ‘Charles Wright’ named after its designer. It was used on old style number plates before an updated version was produced which is also referred to as ‘Charles Wright new.’

Spacing Between Characters

UK registration plates use monospacing, meaning that every character (except I/1) is of equal width and height. Other spacing is uniform. A gap of 11mm must be left between each digit, as well as an 11mm margin around the outside of the registration plate. The gap in the middle separating the digits into 2 groups must be exactly 33mm.

Size of Characters

All number plate characters must be 79mm tall and 50mm wide with a thickness of 14mm.