We will provide you with a guide on how the UK number plate system works, including regional and year identifiers for new style number plates.

Since the implementation of the Motor Car Act in 1903, it has been a legal requirement for all vehicles to be issued with a unique registration that is visible on the vehicle.

Over time the combinations and formats have changed and this is because the formats have run out of system combinations across the years. For example the original formats were dateless registrations and these were issued to a standard format until 1963. Following this the government issued suffix style number plates until 1983, followed by prefix number plates until 2001, and subsequently new style formats are being issued to vehicles at first registration. The new style number plates differ from their predecessors in that they use a number rather than a letter as the year identifier. They do, however retain the 2 letter regional identifiers previously recognised by the suffix and prefix formats. It is important to realise that there are 2 year identifier numbers issued in a single year.

Reg Plate formats Explained

If you aren’t familiar with the format of UK number plates, you are unlikely to know that car registrations for new vehicles change twice a year – first of all in March and then in September of the same year.

Those registrations issued in March adopt the last 2 digits of the year, for example 2020 registrations will adopt 20, with 2021 adopting 21 and so on. Age Identifiers are positioned after the regional identifiers in the letter and number combination of the new style registration. Those registrations issued in September follow a different number sequence. The first number used in September 2001 was 51. The issued numbers follow a pattern with the number 60 issued to September 2010 vehicle registrations, and the number 70 issued to September 2020 vehicle registrations.

The letters placed at the start of the sequence of numbers and letters and placed immediately before the Age Identifier number are the regional identifiers. These letters tell you where the car was first registered. We have provided a table of letter regional identifiers used across the UK below:

First letter Official local mnemonic DVLA Office Second letter (DVLA Office identifier)
A Anglia Peterborough A B C D E F G H J K L M N
Norwich O P R S T U
Ipswich V W X Y
B Birmingham Birmingham A–Y
C Cymru (Wales) Cardiff A B C D E F G H J K L M N O
Swansea P R S T U V
Bangor W X Y
D Deeside Chester A B C D E F G H J K
Shrewsbury L M N O P R S T U V W X Y
E Essex Chelmsford A–Y
F Forest and Fens Nottingham A B C D E F G H J K L M N P
Lincoln R S T V W X Y
G Garden of England Maidstone A B C D E F G H J K L M N O
Brighton P R S T U V W X Y
H Hampshire and Dorset Bournemouth A B C D E F G H J
Portsmouth K L M N O P R S T U V X Y
Isle of Wight (issued in Portsmouth) W
K No official mnemonic Boreham-wood (formerly Luton) A B C D E F G H J K L
Northampton M N O P R S T U V W X Y
L London Wimbledon A B C D E F G H J
Borehamwood (formerly Stanmore) K L M N O P R S T
Sidcup U V W X Y
M Manchester and Merseyside Manchester A–Y
Note: MN reserved for Isle of Man
N North Newcastle A B C D E G H J K L M N O (NF is not issued)
Stockton P R S T U V W X Y
O Oxford Oxford A–Y
P Preston Preston A B C D E F G H J K L M N O P R S T
Carlisle U V W X Y
R Reading Reading A–Y
S Scotland Glasgow A B C D E F G H J
Edinburgh K L M N O
Dundee P R S T
Aberdeen U V W
Inverness X Y
V Severn Valley Worcester A–Y
W West of England Exeter A B C D E F G H J
Truro K L
Bristol M N O P R S T U V W X Y
X Personal export · Beverley

· Birmingham

· Bristol

· Chelmsford

· Glasgow

· Leeds

· Lincoln

· Maidstone

· Manchester

· Northampton

· Norwich

· Oxford

· Stockton

· Wimbledon

Y Yorkshire Leeds A B C D E F G H J K
Sheffield L M N O P R S T U
Beverley V W X Y

The last 3 letters that appear after the Age Identifier are randomly generated, although these are commonly used by the DVLA to create attractive personalised number plates.

attractive personalised number plates

(a) Registered in Stockton on Tees (NU)

(b) Registered after 1st March 2021 and before the 31st August 2021

If you click on the following link you will see all the year identifiers for new style registrations in combination with prefix and suffix style registrations: www.premier-plates.co.uk

What about private number plates?

The traditional UK number plate format and private registration formats can differ with customisations across the plate or just in some areas of the plate. The cost will vary subject to the extent to which you customise the plate. For example XX21 SUE will be more expensive than NU21 SUE as the combination of X’s personalises the plate further.

You need to be aware that you cannot make a vehicle appear younger than it is through the assignment of a personalised registration. As an example XX21 SUE can only be assigned to a vehicle first registered after 1st March 2021.

Private number plates are increasingly popular and they make your vehicle unique whilst adding character to the vehicle.

You should now be able to identify where a vehicle was first registered, how old the vehicle is and have some ideas about how to personalise your vehicle without breaking the rules.