• Number Plate Guide
  • Number Plate Guide

Number Plate Guide

How Does the Number Plate System Work in the UK? Read our 2023 update

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 roll 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). In 2023, new car number plates will either have ‘23’ or ‘73’ 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 brand new vehicle.

In this guide dedicated to registration plates in the UK, we explain how the number plate system works, what the reg is for 2023 and this year’s banned number plates. Read on to find out more…  

UK Number Plates Explained

The current number plate system we use in the UK was first introduced in September 2001. Registration plates are laid out to display two letters, followed by two numbers, then by another three more letters. An example of 2023 number plates might be AB23 CDE or AB73 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 2023 will have the number 23 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 2023 to February 2024 will have the number 73 as their age identifier. Similarly, 2024 number plates will feature 24 and 74 as their age identifiers.

What do the number plate 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 local DVLA 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, take a look at the table below and refer to the official DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency) Vehicle registration numbers and number plates leaflet.

Registration Plate Guide

From the year 2001 when the number UK number plate system was introduced, to the current 2023 registration plate and everything in between:

Year1st March - August End

1st September - February End
2001/0251
2002/030252
2003/040353
2004/050454
2005/060555
2006/070656
2007/080757
2008/090858
2009/100959
2010/111060
2011/121161
2012/131262
2013/141363
2014/151464
2015/161565
2016/171666
2017/181767
2018/191868
2019/201969
2020/212070
2021/222171
2022/232272
2023/242373*

*and so on until 55/00

Number Plate Area Codes UK

The local memory tag element of a number plate allows a vehicle to be identified by the region in which it was first registered. Every area in the UK is assigned an indicator code by the DVLA, distinguished by two capital letters - these are as follows:

First

Letter

UK Region

Postal Area

Memory Tag Identifier

A

Anglia

Peterborough 


Norwich

Ipswich

AA AB AC AD AE AF AG AH AJ AK AL AM AN

AO AP AR AS AT AU

AV AW AX AY

B

Birmingham

Birmingham

BA-BY

C

Cymru

Cardiff 


Swansea

Bangor

CA CB CC CD CE CF CG CH CJ CK CL CM CN CO 

CP CR CS CT CU CV

CW CX CY

D

Deeside to Shrewsbury

Chester 


Shrewsbury

DA DB DC DD DE DF DG DH DJ DK 

DL DM DN DO DP DR DS DT DU DV DW DX DY

E

Essex

Chelmsford

EA-EY

F

Forest & Fens

Nottingham 


Lincoln

FA FB FC FD FE FF FG FH FJ FK FL FM FN FP

FR FS FT FV FW FX FY

G

Garden of England

Maidstone 


Brighton

GA GB GC GD GE GF GG GH GJ GK GL GM GN GO

GP GR GS GT GU GV GW GX GY

H

Hampshire & Dorset

Bournemouth Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight

HA HB HC HD HE HF HG HH HJ 

HK HL HM HN HO HP HR HS HT HU HV HW HX HY

(HW will be used exclusively for Isle of Wight residents)

K

East Midlands & Hertfordshire

Borehamwood

Northampton

KA KB KC KD KE KF KG KH KJ KK KL

KM KN KO KP KR KS KT KU KV KW KX KY

L

London

Wimbledon

Sidcup

LA LB LC LD LE LF LG LH LJ 

LK LL LM LN LO LP LR LS LT LU LV LW LX LY

M

Manchester & Merseyside

Manchester and the Isle of Man

MA – MY (MN + MAN Reserved for the Isle of Man)

N

North

Newcastle 


Stockton

NA NB NC ND NE NG NH NJ NK NL NM NN NO

NP NR NS NT NU NV NW NX NY

O

Oxford

Oxford

OA-OY

P

Preston

Preston


Carlisle

PA PB PC PD PE PF PG PH PJ PK PL PM PN PO PP PR PS PT 

PU PV PW PX PY

R

Reading

Theale

RA-RY

S

Scotland

Glasgow

Edinburgh

Dundee

Aberdeen

Inverness

SA SB SC SD SE SF SG SH SJ

SK SL SM SN SO

SP SR SS ST

SU SV SW

SX SY

V

Severn Valley

Worcester

VA-VY

W

West of England

Exeter


Truro

Bristol

WA WB WC WD WE WF WG WH WJ

WK WL

WM WN WO WP WR WS WT WU WV WW WX WY

Y

Yorkshire

Leeds

Sheffield

Beverley

YA YB YC YD YE YF YG YH YJ YK

YL YM YN YO YP YR YS YT YU 

YV YW YX YY

How often do new number plates come out?

New number plates are released twice a year in the UK as standard practice on the 1st of March and September. The main reason that new number plates are released is to: 1) cater for the amount of cars and vans being produced each year to ensure there’s enough combinations of letters and numbers, and 2) to show how old a vehicle is and help make the car or van easily identifiable.  

What is the new reg for 2023?

In line with the year itself, 2023 introduces a ‘23’ number plate from the 1st March and a ‘73’ number plate from the 1st September. Example number plate combinations would be ‘NU23 REG’ which features on new cars registered from 1st March 2023 until the 31st August 2023, followed by ‘NU73 REG’ which features on new cars registered from 1st September 2023 until the end of February 2024.  

Banned UK Number Plates

Of course, not all number plates follow the standard set of rules - they can also be personalised too. Check out our dedicated ‘Rules of Personalised Number Plates’ blog to understand more. 

In line with personalised registration plate options, comes a whole heap of red tape too. Are you aware that the DVLA releases a list of banned number plates every year? This is usually because the letter and number combinations are too offensive and inappropriate to be used. 

Let’s take 2023 for example. This year, another set of x-rated and offensive number plate combinations have been blacklisted due to their insensitive nature. COVID-19 themed number plates such as CO23 ONA are still a no-no, as are number plates relating to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, such as RU23 UKR for obvious reasons.

It goes without saying that rude and inappropriate combinations of number plate letters and numbers are also banned - no matter how cheeky you think they may be! Nobody wants to be sat behind a driver with the number plate PS23 CHO or AA23 OLE…we’ll leave the remaining banned combination to your imagination.

If you opt for a personalised number plate, keep it sensible by choosing from the millions of options available via the DVLA website.

Electric Vehicle Number Plates

With the growing number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads, you will no doubt have noticed that the registration plate looks slightly different to that of a standard petrol or diesel car. We often get asked the question, ‘why do number plates have green on them?’ - the simple answer being that it is to show the vehicle in question is electric.

First introduced by the UK Government in 2020 to raise awareness of zero emission vehicles, electric cars are fitted with number plates that have a green ‘flash’ on the left-hand side. Dubbed ‘green number plates’, only vehicles with zero emissions at the tailpipe qualify for these. Green number plates are now fitted as standard to all new EVs, but you can request to opt for a standard registration plate instead if you prefer.    

Order Your New Car From Wilsons Epsom

As the largest family-run new car supermarket in the South of England, here at Wilsons in Epsom, Surrey, we proudly represent 11 new car brands… 

Discover the latest models from Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep, Hyundai, Nissan, Nismo, Peugeot, MG, Renault and Dacia, including our hybrid and electric vehicle offering. 

We have a whole host of offers available on a selection of new models across the range. You can view our new car stock online and book a test drive at our state-of-the-art multi-franchise dealership nestled between London and the Surrey Hills. Visit us today! 

Transport For London

Cars need to meet minimum emission standards when travelling in the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) or the daily charge must be paid.

Minimum emission standards

Petrol: Euro 4
Diesel: Euro 6

The ULEZ will be enforced based on the declared emissions of the vehicle rather than the age. However:

Information from Transport For London

Check this car on the TFL website before purchasing: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

All our vehicles are subject to an Admin Fee. Our Admin Fee covers any additional administration needed during your transaction, including a thorough provenance check (HPI Check). The admin fee also includes the cost to fully valet, register and, if necessary, MOT your vehicle (if less than 6 months left of current MOT).

Our administration fee is a variable fee which covers the additional administration needed when transacting with different categories of customers as specified. Retail Customers £199.00 - (Private buyers - NOT an owner, partner or director of a new/used vehicle sales company). Retail Customers using a finance broker outside our official panel of lenders paying funds direct to Wilsons Epsom - £399.00. All fees are inclusive of VAT.