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  • 01 March 2017

    Number Plate Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Vehicle Registrations

    This article has been updated for the September 1st 2017 plate change


    If you’re looking into getting a new car, then September 2017 is the perfect time to make a purchase with the new 2017 Reg release. With this in mind, we decided to create a guide dedicated to the number plate! 

    New Registration Plate

    In this guide, you will find everything you need to know including:

    ● The history behind them.
    ● Why they are needed.
    ● What they mean.
    ● Specific rules and laws.

    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 LA17. In September, 50 is added to this number, so if the same car was registered in September 2017 the number plate would be LA67.

    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.

    Does the plate change affect personalised number plates?

    Depending on the age of your car, there can sometimes be registration restrictions. Before making a decision, consider the following limitations:

    ● The third and fourth digits on the plate known as the ‘age identifier’ are changed every six months in March and September.
    ● In March the digits will always be the last two digits of the year.
    ● In September 50 is always added to the number.
    ● When the personalised registration has an age identifier, you can only add that number to a current or more recent vehicle.
    ● For example, if your personalised number plate has the numbers 10 or 60, then the car will have been registered in 2010 or later.

    The restrictions also apply to older cars - if you want to design a personalised number plate with a single letter, the old system will need to be checked to see if it's suitable for your car.

    How do I get a new number plate?

    UK Registration Plates change on September 1st, 2017, making now the ideal time to buy a new car and be the proud owner of a brand-new number plate. If you want to purchase a personalised one be aware of the restrictions listed above.

    Every six-monthly release of new plates reveals numerous, fresh variations - consumers can create something unique, whether it’s their name, a reflection of something they love or simply an eye-catching design!

    Below are some of our favourite plates for 2017, which show how easy it is to create your own with a variety of different characters. Can you work out what they say?

     

    Banned number plates

    As expected, with every new release the DVLA has to be careful that inappropriate number plates are not made available to the public. This year the list of banned plates is pretty long, they have banned certain variations for being too obscene… obviously, we can’t include them in here but if you want to have a look (and a laugh) they can be found through a quick Google search.

    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.

    Illegal Number Plate Fonts

    UK laws on number plates are very strict with only two legal fonts of standard and 3D effect (two tone). Before this law was introduced, italic, highline and carbon fonts were allowed, but these are now prohibited.

    Apart from the digits, the only other permissible extras are borders and flags. No other images, slogans or text can be added to the plate. Rules introduced in April 2009 now allow number plates in England, Scotland and Wales to display the Union Flag, Saltire, Red Dragon of Wales or Cross of St George.

    Car owners found with incorrectly spaced or illegal number plate fonts can be fined up to £1000 for the offence, and the car will fail its MOT.

    What will the future bring for number plates?

    The number plate system in place will only last until 2050, because adding 50 every September will eventually require an extra digit on the plate. Even though it's a long way off (33 years to be exact) there are no other new number plate systems in the pipeline. We suspect that the DVLA will devise a different solution in the future!



Howards Garages (Weston) Ltd is an Appointed Representative of Automotive Compliance Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA No 497010). Automotive Compliance Ltd's permissions as a Principal Firm allows Howards Garages (Weston) Ltd to act as a credit broker, not as lender, for the introduction to a limited number of finance providers and to act as an agent on behalf of the insurer for insurance mediation activities only.

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