What is a car number plate change? | AA Cars

Everyone has a number plate on their car, but many of us don’t understand what they display. 

With an imminent number plate changeover on the way, and plenty of people are looking to get their hands on a car wearing the new registration. So now is a great time to get to grips with number plates and the changeover.

What is a number plate change?

A number plate change happens twice a year – the first on the 1st March and the second 6 months later on the 1st September. 

Any car or vehicle that’s registered on or after those dates will be registered on a new plate – showing that it’s one of the newest cars around. 

For example, if a car is on a ‘69’ registration, it will have been registered between the 1st September and 29th February, but any car registered from the 1st March until the 31st August will be on a ‘20’ plate. From the 1st September 2020 until the end of February 2021, a ‘70’ marker will be used. 

How do I read a number plate?

The current system for plates, which has been around since September 2001, applies to cars registered in England, Scotland and Wales, with Northern Ireland using a different system. 

Here we’ll use a random example of a number plate – KT20 YSY. 

The first two letters – KT – show where the car was registered to. It used to show which DVLA office registered the plate, but since 2013, these have been closed and it’s now all done online, though it still tends to show the dealership where the car was registered. For example, a plate starting in a ‘Y’ means it was registered in Yorkshire; S is Scotland; W is the ‘West of England’ and ‘C’ is Wales. In the case of this plate, it was registered in Northampton. 

The two numbers – 20 – show the date it was registered, while the last three letters (YSY) are entirely random. 

This system only applies to current UK registrations, and not those pre-September 2001 or private number plates. 


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