Number plate guide: Everything you need to know about vehicle registrations
THE NUMBER plate has been around for many years. The first country to introduce it was France with the passing of the Paris Police Ordinance on August 14, 1893. Other European countries started to follow suit, with the Netherlands becoming the first country to introduce a nationally registered licence plate in 1898, naming it a ‘driving permit’.
Eventually, the UK also adopted the number plate using index marks of one or two letters. These were issued to various licensing authorities in 1903 when most powers that be allotted registrations starting at 1. It is believed that the first ever UK registration was DY1 from Hastings, Kent, registered on November 23, 1903.
Three letters/three number series were subsequently introduced in 1932. All marks were allocated by the mid-1950s, and annotations issued by certain authorities were reserved with letters following numbers. Some continued to issue ‘forward’ marks (numbers following letters) until the mid-1960s.
August 1, 1983, saw the introduction of a ‘prefix’ system using a single letter to show the year of first registration with an ‘A’ prefix. This method identified the age of the car with the first letter of the registration, which changed every August. The second and third numbers on the plate were random, with two of the last three letters denoting the registration area. The last number was also chosen at random. This classification remained until the current number plate system was launched.
Today’s approach features an ‘age identifier’ in the middle of plate and has been in force since September 2001.
Why do cars have number plates? Cars were growing ever more popular in the UK. As demand increased the British government decided to take steps to regulate vehicles on the nation’s roads. Number plates would also be useful in the event of an accident or crime, making it easier for the government to track down the owner of the vehicle and take appropriate action.
How does the number plate system work? The scheme in use today has three main sections. The first two letters represent the ‘local memory tag’ indicating where the vehicle was registered. The third and fourth digits are known as the ‘age identifier’ and change every six months in March and September. The digits in March will always be the same as the last two digits of the current year. For example, a car registered in London from March this year would have the digits LA17. In September, 50 is added to this number, so if the same car was registered in September 2017 the number plate would be LA67.
The final three letters are chosen at random, generated by a computer, but are carefully checked to ensure no offensive results are created. If you want a new car with the latest number plate, you can either wait until March 1 or September 1, or net a good deal earlier before the new plates are released.
Does the plate change affect personalised number plates? Depending on the age of your car, there can sometimes be registration restrictions. Before making a decision, consider the following limitations:
• The third and fourth digits on the plate known as the ‘age identifier’ are changed every six months in March and September.
• In March, the digits will always be the last two digits of the year.
• In September, 50 is always added to the number.
• When the personalised registration has an age identifier, you can only add that number to a current or more recent vehicle.
• For example, if your personalised number plate has the numbers 10 or 60, then the car will have been registered in 2010 or later. The restrictions also apply to older cars – if you want to design a personalised number plate with a single letter, the old system will need to be checked to see if it’s suitable for your car.
How do I get a new number plate? UK registration plates changed on March 1, 2017. If you want to purchase a personalised one, be aware of the restrictions listed above. Every six-monthly release of new plates reveals numerous, fresh variations – consumers can create something unique, whether it’s their name, a reflection of something they love or simply an eye-catching design!