• Number Plate Guide

Number Plate Guide

How Does the Number Plate System Work? (2021)

    Car enthusiasts often look forward to March and September of each year. Why? Because it’s in these months that the latest batch of cars is rolling off production lines and into showrooms. 

    Registration plates are also subject to updates, so vehicles released from March adopt the year they’re produced in, while those produced from September 2020 onwards adopt a number in the 70s to signify a new decade (see the table below). This year, new car number plates will either have 21 or 71 printed on them. 

    March and September are the months in which car manufacturers typically release the latest version of the cars in their line-up. This could mean that a model is getting a major facelift or redesign, or it could be a small update to include an additional feature. For many buyers, this is the ideal time to secure a new vehicle.

    Number Plates Explained

    The current number plate system was introduced in September 2001. They are arranged in the format of two letters, followed by two numbers, followed by three more letters. An example of 2021 number plates might be AB21 CDE or AB71 CDE.

    The number on the plate refers to the year and six-month period in which the vehicle was first registered; either March to August or September to February. The age identifier changes on 1st March and 1st September every year. The table below shows how the age identifier changes over the life of the current number plate format.

    The March codes are easier to remember and identify because they follow the year of the registration. For example, a car that has been registered from March 2021 will have the number 21 as its age identifier. For cars registered between September and February, the code is the year (as of September) plus 50. Therefore, cars produced from September 2021 to February 2022 will have the number 71 as their age identifier. Similarly, 2022 number plates will feature 22 and 72 as their age identifiers.

    What do the letters stand for?

    The first two letters are known as the local memory tag and they show where the vehicle was registered. The first letter represents the region and the second letter represents a DVLA local office. For example, a vehicle registered in London will have a number plate starting with LA through to LY. 'Z' is only used as a random letter, never designated to a particular area code.

    The last three letters are chosen randomly and are allocated to a dealership when the car is registered. The random nature of these letters and specific allocation to a dealership gives each vehicle a unique identity. For a full breakdown of local memory tags and where cars were initially registered, click here.


    Year1st March - August End

    1st September - February End

    *and so on until 55/00


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