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What do UK number plates mean?

Understanding the Number Plate Format:

UK number plates follow a specific format mandated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The standard format consists of seven characters, arranged in two distinct sections:

  1. Local Memory Tag: The first two letters represent the local memory tag, which indicates the location where the vehicle was first registered. For example, "AB" might denote Aberdeen, while "LD" could signify London.
  2. Age Identifier: The next two digits indicate the age identifier, revealing the year the vehicle was first registered. From March to August, this typically corresponds to the last two digits of the year (e.g., "24" for 2024). From September to February, the year is represented by adding 50 to the last two digits (e.g., "74" for September 2024).
  3. Random Letters: The next three letters are randomly assigned and serve to make each number plate unique.

Understanding the Age Identifier:

The age identifier portion of the number plate provides valuable insights into the vehicle's age. Understanding this code can help determine whether a vehicle is brand new or several years old. Here's a breakdown of how to decipher the age identifier:

  • The First Character: The first character of the age identifier indicates the six-month period in which the vehicle was registered. "A" represents March to August, while "B" represents September to February.
  • The Second Character: The second character denotes the year of registration within the specified six-month period. Each character corresponds to a specific year, starting from "0" for 2000 and incrementing sequentially until "9" for 2019. From 2020 onwards, the characters switch to letters, with "A" representing 2020, "B" for 2021, and so forth.
UK number plate format
UK number plate format

How to calculate the age of my car?

Suffix system 1963-1983

Prefix system 1983-2001

Current system 2001-present 

1963 A

1983 Y/A

2001 X/Y/51

1964 B

1984 A/B

2002 02/52

1965 C

1985 B/C

2003 03/53

1966 D

1986 C/D

2004 04/54

1967 E/F

1987 D/E

2005 05/55

1968 F/G

1988 E/F

2006 06/56

1969 G/H

1989 F/G

2007 07/57

1970 H/J

1990 G/H

2008 08/58

1971 J/K

1991 H/J

2009 09/59

1972 K/L

1992 J/K

2010 10/60

1973 L/M

1993 K/L

2011 11/61

1974 M/N

1994 L/M

2012 12/62

1975 N/P

1995 M/N

2013 13/63

1976 P/R

1996 N/P

2014 14/64

1977 R/S

1997 P/R

2015 15/65

1978 S/T

1998 R/S

2016 16/66

1979 T/V

1999 S/T/V

2017 17/67

1980 V/W

2000 V/W/X

2018 18/68

1981 W/X

2001 X/Y/51

2019 19/69

1982 X/Y


2020 20/70

1983 Y/A


2021 21/71



2022 22/72



2023 23/73



2024 24/74

Additional Information:

While the standard format provides essential details about the vehicle's registration location and age, certain number plates may incorporate additional elements:

  • Personalised Plates: Some individuals opt for personalised number plates, which allow them to choose specific combinations of letters and numbers to create unique identifiers. These plates often hold personal significance or serve as a form of expression. Did you know that you can put a private registration plate onto a leased car? You can read more about that in our guide.
  • Special Plates: Special number plates, such as those reserved for diplomatic vehicles or vehicles registered before a certain date, may follow different formats, or incorporate unique symbols.

UK number plates are more than a combination of just number and letters; they reflect a vehicle's origin and history. By understanding the format and decoding the letters and numbers, motorists can glean valuable information about the vehicles they encounter on the road. Whether it's deciphering the age identifier or recognising personalised plates, unlocking the secrets of UK number plates adds an intriguing dimension to the world of motoring.