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Number plate formats explained; UK car registrations

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Prefix Registrations Explained (E.G. X666 EON)

Prefix registrations are those which follow the format of a single year identifying letter (in the example above the X), then a number which can be 1, 2 or 3 digits in length (The above is an example of a three digit prefix with the number 666), and then finally three more letters (EON).

PREFIXYEAR OF RELEASE
A1983
B1984
C1985
D1986
E1987
F1988
G1989
H1990
J1991
K1992
L1993
M1994
N1995
P1996
R1997
S1998
T1999
V1999
W2000
X2000
Y2001
Example of a prefix plate: K50 WTB

The last three characters would originally have been able to identify the area of the country in which the registration was issued (in the above example the WTB indicates that this registration would have been released in Liverpool).

And the number is simply a way of uniquely identifying one registration from the possible 999 alternatives with the same prefix and suffix combinations that could be out there.

As these registrations have an age identifier (the prefix), you can only assign them to vehicles of the same age as the registration or younger. As with all registrations that carry a year identifier you can make your vehicle look as old as you want, but not one day newer. So, for example, the above registration - K50 WTB - could be assigned to any vehicle first manufactured after 01/08/1992, but you'd be unable to put it on a vehicle that was manufactured before that date as you would be giving the impression that the vehicle was newer than it is.

We presently have around 8 million unique prefix registrations on our database which you can search through.

New Style Registrations Explained (E.G. SK54 MPK)

New Style registrations are those which follow the format of a two letter prefix (in the above example the SK), followed by a two digit year identifier (the 54 above) and finally three more letters (MPK). The New Style reg became the current standard for vehicles from the second half of 2000 - hence they are sometimes reffered to as Millennium Plates - and replaced the exhausted prefix format. For the first time in UK mainland registrations the letter Z was allowed as a character in the last three letters - but not in the prefix. The two digit number in the registration would originally have been used to to determine the age of the vehicle it was being displayed on - as shown in the below table.

YearMarchSeptember
2001 51
20020252
20030353
20040454
20050555
20060656
20070757
20080858
20090959
20101060
20111161
20121262
20131363
20141464
20151565
20161666
20171767
20181868
20191969
20202070
20212171
20222272
20232373
20242474
20252575
20262676
20272777
20282878
20292979
20303080

The two prefix letters of this registration would originally have been used to identify the area of the country in which the registration was issued (in the above example the SK indicates that this registration would have been released in Scotland, most likely from the Edinburgh DVLA Vehicle Registration Office.). As these registrations have an age identifier (the two digits), you can only assign them to vehicles of the same age as the registration or younger. As with all registrations that carry a year identifier you can make your vehicle look as old as you want, but not one day newer. So, for example, the above registration - SK54 MPK - could be assigned to any vehicle first manufactured after 01/09/2004, but you'd be unable to put it on a vehicle that was manufactured before that date as you would be giving the impression that the vehicle was newer than it is.

We presently have around 30 million unique new style registrations on our database which you can search

Suffix Registrations Explained (E.G. FVL 144M)

Suffix registrations are those which follow the format of three letters (in the above example FVL) a number which can be 1, 2 or 3 digits in length (The above is an example of a three digit suffix with the number 144) and finally a single year identifying letter (in this case M). The final letter (or suffix hence the name of this style of registration), would originally have been used to determine the age of the vehicle it was being displayed on - as shown in the below table.

SUFFIXYEAR OF RELEASE
A1963
B1964
C1965
D1966
E1967
F1967
G1968
H1969
J1970
K1971
L1972
M1973
N1974
P1975
R1976
S1977
T1978
V1979
W1980
X1981
Y1982
The first three characters would originally have been able to identify the area of the country in which the registration was issued (in the above example the FVL indicates that this registration would have been released in Lincoln). And the number is simply a way of uniquely identifying one registration from the possible 999 alternatives with the same prefix and suffix combinations that could be out there. As these registrations have an age identifier (the suffix), you can only assign them to vehicles of the same age as the registration or younger. As with all registrations that carry a year identifier you can make your vehicle look as old as you want, but not one day newer. So, for example, the above registration - FVL 144M - could be assigned to any vehicle first manufactured after 01/08/1973, but you'd be unable to put it on a vehicle that was manufactured before that date as you would be giving the impression that the vehicle was more modern than it is. We presently have around 15 million unique suffix registrations on our database which you can search through

Have you spotted that the I, O, Q, U and Z are not included? The 'I' and 'Z' were always registered for Northern Ireland registrations (where the 'Z' stated to be used in 2000 - see "New Style"). 'Q' is always reserved to register vehicles whose date of manufacture is unknown. A 'Q' mark is non-transferable. 'O' and 'U' are not used as they are easily confused with 'Q' and 'V'.

Dateless Registrations Explained (E.G. TOA 123)

When registrations were introduced in 1903, and before the suffix format came into effect in 1963, they had no discernable year identifying numbers or digits on them. With a registration like this it's impossible to tell (without insider knowledge) how old the vehicle displaying it is. Prefix registrations are so called because their initial letter (prefix) identifies the age of a vehicle, suffix registrations because their trailing (suffix) letter identifies the age of the vehicle and the new style reg can identify a vehicle age from the two digit number they contain. All of these styles of registration follow the rule that they cannot be assigned to vehicles that were manufactured before their date of issue. But because dateless registrations are considered dateless (hence their name), these registrations can be assigned and displayed on vehicles of any age. Because these format registrations date back to pre-1963, they're considered the cream of the crop in the numberplate world. They're often very difficult to come by, simply because vehicles they were originally on will have long since been scrapped. They do, however, come with a history attached to them and you can be sure that the reg you're buying will be one of only a small number of similar reg still on the roads. Dateless reg come in various configurations, either with 1, 2, 3 or 4 digits followed by 1, 2 or 3 letters, or the reverse with 1, 2 or 3 letters followed by 1, 2, 3 or 4 digits. The single or consecutive letters in the registration would originally have been able to identify the area of the country in which the registration was issued (in the above example the TOA indicates that this registration would have been released in Birmingham).

Certain 3 letters/3 numbers dateless combinations are reserved as replacement marks for pre-1963 vehicles. They are usually allocated following the transfer or retention of the original cherished mark, thus helping to preserve the authenticity of the vehicle. However, as a fraud prevention precaution, such marks are "non-transferable". Typical replacement marks are some of the LSV and GSK series. The "non-transferable" marker appears on the notes on the registration document (V5/C)

National Numbers realise that buying a private number plate is not cheap and therefore we offer 0% Finance. Don't worry if your credit history is poor, you can still be considered for a personal loan where we ask you to set up regular standing order payments.

Number Plate Formats Explained home page

By Eric Craggs - Google+