Num­ber plate guide: Every­thing you need to know about ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tions

The Oban Times - - Mo­tors -

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!

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