Car number plates

What they tell you

The current number plate format was introduced in 2001

The current number plate format was introduced in 2001

You can easily work out how old a vehicle is once you understand the way the 'age identifier' changes over time. Here's our guide.

New registrations changed from annual to twice yearly in 1999. Shortly after, in September 2001, the current format number plate was introduced, made up of three parts:

  • Local memory tag The first two letters show where the vehicle was registered. The first represents the region and the second a DVLA local office.
  • Age identifier The two numbers in the middle show the age of the vehicle down to a six month period - March to August or September to February. The age identifier changes on 1 March and 1 September. The table below shows how the age indentifier changes over the life of the current format plate.
  • Random letters The last three letters are random and give the car a unique identity.

Age identifiers

Year 1 March to
end August
1 September to
end February
2001/02   51
2002/03 02 52
2003/04 03 53
2004/05 04 54
2005/06 05 55
2006/07 06 56
2007/08 07 57
2008/09 08 58
2009/10 09 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 so on until 50/00
in 2050/51

Do your plates meet the rules?

New rules about typefaces and 'GB' plates came into force with the introduction of the new plates.

  • All new number plates must display the new mandatory font.
  • Existing plates need not be changed provided the font used is substantially the same as the new one.
  • Number plates must be replaced if they have been customised with stylised letters and figures, such as italics, or with number plate fixing bolts that alter the appearance of the letters or numbers. Failure to replace such number plates may result in keepers risking prosecution.

National flags on number plates

Under rules introduced in April 2009, drivers in England, Scotland and Wales can display the Union flag, Cross of St George, Saltire or Red Dragon of Wales.

This amendment to the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 means that drivers in England, Scotland and Wales can display the Union flag, Cross of St George, Cross of St Andrew (also known as the Saltire) or Red Dragon of Wales as well as one of the following identifiers: GREAT BRITAIN, Great Britain, GB, UNITED KINGDOM, United Kingdom, UK, CYMRU, Cymru, CYM, Cym, ENGLAND, England, ENG, Eng, SCOTLAND, Scotland, SCO, Sco, WALES or Wales.

No other symbols or flags can be displayed on number plates.

You can still choose to display the blue European Flag with "GB" within the circle of stars on your number plates.

This allows you to travel within Europe without the need to display the conventional oval sticker to identify the member state in which the vehicle is registered.

If your number plates display a national flag and identifier then you will still have to display the conventional oval 'GB' sticker when travelling in Europe.

For more information on the rules visit the official DVLA website.

Earlier number plate formats

The old 'prefix' system with a leading single letter to show the year of first registration began on 1 August 1983 with the introduction of the 'A' prefix and ended with 'Y', which ran from 1 March 2001 until 31 August 2001.

Before 1983, letters were used as a suffix. The table below shows both systems.

Old suffix letters Old prefix letters
Jan '63 to Dec '63 A   A Aug '83 to July '84
Jan '64 to Dec '64 B B Aug '84 to July '85
Jan '65 to Dec '65 C C Aug '85 to July '86
Jan '66 to Dec '66 D D Aug '86 to July '87
Jan '67 to July '67 E E Aug '87 to July '88
Aug '67 to July '68 F F Aug '88 to July '89
Aug '68 to July '69 G G Aug '89 to July '90
Aug '69 to July '70 H H Aug '90 to July '91
Aug '70 to July '71 J J Aug '91 to July '92
Aug '71 to July '72 K K Aug '92 to July '93
Aug '72 to July '73 L L Aug '93 to July '94
Aug '73 to July '74 M M Aug '94 to July '95
Aug '74 to July '75 N N Aug '95 to July '96
Aug '75 to July '76 P P Aug '96 to July '97
Aug '76 to July '77 R R Aug '97 to July '98
Aug '77 to July '78 S S Aug '98 to Feb '99
Aug '78 to July '79 T T March '99 to Aug '99
Aug '79 to July '80 V V Sept '99 to Feb 2000
Aug '80 to July '81 W W March 2000 to Aug 2000
Aug '81 to July '82 X X Sept 2000 to Feb 2001
Aug '82 to July '83 Y Y March 2001 to Aug 2001

Number Plate History

  • Index marks of one or two letters were issued to the various licensing authorities in 1903 and most then started to issue registration numbers starting at 1. It is believed that the first registration mark issued was DY1 - in Hastings, Kent on 23 November 1903. (The registration mark A1 was issued in London some time later)
  • A three letter/three number series was introduced in 1932
  • By the mid-1950s all marks had been allocated, so marks issued by some authorities were reversed with letters following numbers. Others continued to issue 'forward' marks (numbers following letters) until the mid-1960s
  • The addition of a year suffix began in all authorities between 1963 and 1965
  • The registration year ran from 1 January to 31 December until 1967 when it was moved to 1 August
  • The registering and licensing of new cars was centralised in 1974 with the establishment of the DVLC, now DVLA in Swansea
  • The year 'prefix' system with a leading single letter to show the year of first registration began on 1 August 1983 with the introduction of the 'A' prefix. (This series ended with 'Y', which ran from 1 March 2001 until 31 August 2001
  • Q plates were introduced in 1983 and are issued to kit cars and some imports where the date of first registration can't be established
  • The current system with the two number 'age identifier' in the middle of the plate was introduced in September 2001

(7 November 2012)