“What do the numbers and letters on a plate of numbers mean?” is a question that we have been asked by a lot of people, numerous times, over the times over the years…
The current number plate system that is in Great Britain has been around since September 2001. Northern Ireland has its own system that’s very different, but we’re focused on the GB system (England, Scotland, Wales).
We’re not planning to discuss any of the previous number plate systems before 2001. The numbering system has changed several times, so maybe we’ll take a look at the previous system in the future.
Current British number plates laid out in the format of two letters and then two numbers followed by a space the last three letters (eg XX22 XXXX).
Prior to Brexit it was possible to see the blue vertical strip (known as a flash) on the left of the plate. It has the EU logo as well as the letters “GB” beneath. These are no longer available on new vehicles, however they are legal if you already have them in your vehicle.
The letters that begin with the letter “A” show the place where the car first registered.
The first two letters are called”memory tag,” that is DVLA’s term for a location identifier for where the car is first registered. It was used to be determined through the DVLA office where registration was conducted, however the DVLA closed all its regional offices in 2013 and now handles new registrations directly with car dealerships via an electronic system.
Although the system is now centralised however, dealers continue to have registration numbers assigned that are based on their local area code. So (for instance) in the event that you purchase new cars from an London dealership it is likely that you will be assigned a number plate that begins with an L.
Some regions of England have distinct letter codes. Yorkshire-registered vehicles start at the letter Y, Hampshire-registered vehicles start with an H, and the list goes on. If you’re buying a new vehicle in Scotland the car will probably begin by using the letter S. For cars that are registered in Wales the letter code will begin with a C , which stands for Cymru.
If you look closely at the following list it will be clear how the letter I, Q and Z are not used as a identification of the location.
The numbers show when the car was initially registered
Two numbers are known as”age identifiers,” it tells you when in the six-month timeframe the vehicle was registered for the first time. This may initially be confusing, but once you get it figured out, you’ll soon be able to get your head around it
The numbers change every six months, in September and March. The codes for March are simple to remember since they correspond with the year of registration (so an automobile licensed between the months of March and August in 2022 will be registered with the number 22, while a car which is registered from March to August of 2005 has the code 05 and then on. ).
If you’re looking for cars that are that are registered between September and February, the process is slightly more difficult. The numeric code equals the year (as of September) plus 50. Therefore, a car registered from September 2022 until February 2023 will bear the number 72 (= 22 + 50). Cars registered from September 2006 – February 2007 is 56 (=06 + 50) and so on.
The theory is that this system should run until we get to February 2051 unless a future government makes changes before that.
The last three letters are random
The letters that are the last three are officially random. In reality, dealers are allocated batches of registration numbers, so your dealer probably have a run of consecutive numbers. After they’ve exhausted all the allocated numbers the dealership will then be assigned a different batch. So it’s not technically random, but it’s close enough.
The letters I and Q aren’t utilized because they could be confused with 1 (or 0) or, and the DVLA is not allowed to use any combinations that may be considered to be offensive or snarky. we’re not going to give any examples , but you are free to play around with your own ideas…
Personalised number plates are a whole different story and are not discussed here, however the DVLA will censor anything it finds offensive or indecent.
The green stripe mean on some number plates?
You may have seen that certain cars have a green flash on the left side of the number plate. It’s in the same spot where the blue EU identifier was. This is a brand new initiative to make zero-emission cars (which currently time, basically means electric cars).
The goal of”green flash” is to permit authorities to easily identify electric carsthat may qualify for parking that is cheaper and priority parking, or the special lanes, or exemptions from taxes like London’s Ulta Low Emission Zone, and so on.
It’s not compulsory to have this “green plates” for your electric car if you don’t want to shout about it, but the use of these plates is growing as EVs become more popular.
It is possible to have an older number plate on a new vehicle, since it is the case that DVLA offers number plate sales it believes have a great commercial value. You could therefore use a ’56’ license plate (Sept 2006 – February 2007) on a brand new 2022 vehicle if you want. This is fairly common with people trying to create terms out of their number plate, or even owners trying to hide the age of their car really is.
But, you can’t have an older number plate than the one that was assigned to the vehicle’s date of registration. This means that you cannot have a ’22’ or ’72’ plate (2022 car) on a car that is registered as 56 (Sept 2006 to Feb 2007) in reverse of the previous example.
When you change cars, you’re able the right to maintain your license plate, if you don’t want to have to remember a brand new number each time you switch your vehicle. This is as simple as giving the DVLA an excessive amount of money, and filling in an unnecessary amount of paperwork and waiting an unnecessarily long time to be able to process it…
The letters I A, Q, and Z are only used as random letters, never in an area code.
It is illegal to change fonts, or space letters in any other manner than what is shown above, despite the fact that hundreds of car owners use it. It is also unlawful to alter the digits , or strategically use mounting screws so that the numbers appear as if they read a different font. Again, this is poorly enforced and the fines are small.
Why is it that Britain have such a complex the number plate scheme?
Well that’s a different question that often is a follow-up to the initial question of “How do you make the system work?” Beats me, however, I suppose it gives a lot of civil officials who work in Swansea (where the DVLA is headquartered) something to think about…
Get in touch with our experts when you need a number plate maker.