Working out how old a car is based on its registration plate used to be relatively easy, with the first letter of a car registration being used to denote the year it was registered.
This process started in 1983 (before then the letters were used as a suffix on the number plate), and ran all the way to 2001.
|A reg year||1963|
|B reg year||1964|
|C reg year||1965|
|D reg year||1966|
|E / F reg year||1967|
|F / G reg year||1968|
|G / H reg year||1969|
|H / J reg year||1970|
|J / K reg year||1971|
|K / L reg year||1972|
|L / M reg year||1973|
|M / N reg year||1974|
|N / P reg year||1975|
|P / R reg year||1976|
|R / S reg year||1977|
|S / T reg year||1978|
|T / V reg year||1979|
|V / W reg year||1980|
|W / X reg year||1981|
|X / Y reg year||1982|
|Y / A reg year||1983|
|A / B reg year||1984|
|B / C reg year||1985|
|C / D reg year||1986|
|D / E reg year||1987|
|E / F reg year||1988|
|F / G reg year||1989|
|G / H reg year||1990|
|H / J reg year||1991|
|J / K reg year||1992|
|K / L reg year||1993|
|L / M reg year||1994|
|M / N reg year||1995|
|N / P reg year||1996|
|P / R reg year||1997|
|R / S reg year||1998|
|S / T / V reg year||1999|
|V / W / X reg year||2000|
|X / Y / 51 reg year||2001|
|02 / 52 reg year||2002|
|03 / 53 reg year||2003|
|04 / 54 reg year||2004|
|05 / 55 reg year||2005|
|06 / 56 reg year||2006|
|07 / 57 reg year||2007|
|08 / 58 reg year||2008|
|09 / 59 reg year||2009|
|10 / 60 reg year||2010|
|11 / 61 reg year||2011|
|12 / 62 reg year||2012|
|13 / 63 reg year||2013|
|14 / 64 reg year||2014|
|15 / 65 reg year||2015|
|16 / 66 reg year||2016|
|17 / 67 reg year||2017|
|18 / 68 reg year||2018|
|19 / 69 reg year||2019|
|20 registration plate||March to August 2020|
|70 reg plate||September 2020 to February 2021|
|21 reg plate||March to August 2021|
|71 reg plate||September 2021 to March 2022|
How does the new car registration plate system work?
Before, registration plates had a letter that designated the year it was registered then three letters that were entirely random. Then there were three more letters at the end, two of which would denote the area the vehicle was registered.
Example of an 'old' car registration: A653 GHD
Now, the car registration system uses two numbers to denote the year of registration, which are preceded by two letters which show where the car was registered.
The final three letters on the new plates are entirely random.
What do the first 2 letters on a number plate mean?
Here's how it's all broken down
- Local memory tag - The first two letters show where the vehicle was registered. The first letter represents the region and the second references which specific DVLA local office.
- Age identifier - The two numbers that follow the local memory tag represent the age of the vehicle rounded down to a six month period - March-August or September-February as the age identifier changes on 1 March and 1 September.
- Random letters - The last three letters are random and are used to make sure each car has a unique identity.
Example of current car registration: LA55 RSF
Number plate area codes in the UK (the first 2 letters)
Car Reg Area Identifier
DVLA Office Location
|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 (Wales)||Cardiff|
|CP, CR, CS, CT, CU, CV||Cymru (Wales)||Swansea|
|CW, CX, CY||Cymru (Wales)||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, HX, HY||Hampshire and Dorset||Portsmouth|
|HW||Hampshire and Dorset||Portsmouth (used only for the Isle of Wight)|
|KA, KB, KC, KD, KE, KF, KG, KH, KJ, KK, KL||-||Luton|
|KM, KN, KO, KP, KR, KS, KT, KU, KV, KW, KX, KY||-||Northhampton|
|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|
|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, TP, YR, YS, YT, YU||Yorkshire||Sheffield|
|YV, YW, YX, YY||Yorkshire||Beverley|
When do new number plates come out?
New number plates are released twice a year - on 1 March and 1 September.
The new 19 reg cars will be released on 1 March 2019, and on 1 September 2019 the new 69 reg vehicles will be registered.
The new number plates then run for six months - rather than the old system which only released new registrations once a year at a set date.
This led to new car buyers waiting until August to buy, meaning car dealers would see lower sales of new cars for the rest of the year.
Private number plates & personalised registrations
Most people find that when buying a new or second-hand car, the number plate for that vehicle is usually preassigned. Private registration numbers can be purchased and used on vehicles registered with the DVLA.
Some types of private registrations, such as the Northern Ireland style, allow you to hide the age of the vehicle, which is why it is always worth checking the true vehicle age before making a decision and not just going off the number plate. Many people use private numbers to display their name, initials, occupation or even interests.
What are private number plates?
Private number plates, also known as personalised number plates, are number plates that include appealing combinations of numbers and letters (such as V1 P, FA57).
Private number plates allow drivers a fashionable way of separating their vehicles from others. The private number plate gives drivers a chance to express themselves in a unique way, replacing the generic combination of letters and numbers with one that is personally meaningful.
Is it legal to purchase and use private number plates?
Yes. Selling and reselling Private number plates is 100% legal and fully endorsed by the DVLA. Although, one main rule governs the buying, selling, and registering of private number plates: number plates cannot be used to make an older vehicle appear newer.