Home Nice to Know Current British Number Plates Explained
Current British Number Plates Explained PDF Print E-mail





New style number plates were issued to all new vehicles registered in the UK commencing on the 1st September 2001.  The new registration mark is made up of seven characters, split up into three elements:


The first element consists of two letters which show which one of the 41 regional DVLA offices in the country the vehicle was first registered at.  This is called the "Local Memory Tag".  The letter 'Z' is not used in this element.


The second element consists of two numbers which identify when the vehicle was first registered.  This is called the "Age Identifier"


The third element consists of three random letters which give the vehicle its unique identity.  This is called, not surprisingly, the "Random Letters".  The random letters are made up using all of the letters of the alphabet except 'I' and 'Q', but any combination of letters which could be considered offensive are excluded.


The "Local Memory Tag"

Local Memory Tag DVLA Office Local Identifier
A 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 A - Y
C 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 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 Chelmsford A - Y
F Nottingham A B C D E F G H J K L M N P
Lincoln R S T V W X Y
G 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 Bournemouth A B C D E F G H J
Portsmouth K L M N O P R S T U V W X Y
HW Reserved for the Isle of Wight
K 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 Wimbledon A B C D E F G H J
Stanmore K L M N O P R S T
Sidcup U V W X Y
M Manchester A - Y
N Newcastle A B C D E G H J K L M N O
Stockton P R S T U V W X Y
O Oxford A - Y
P 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 A - Y
S 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 Worcester A - Y
W 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
Y 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





If any of the regional DVLA offices receives an exceptionally high demand, and runs out of available registration marks, then registration marks may be transferred between them.

Age Identifiers And The Dates They Refer To
(New registrations are issued in March and September of each year)

Year March September Year March September
2001 Old Style Plates 51 2025 25 75
2002 02 52 2026 26 76
2003 03 53 2027 27 77
2004 04 54 2028 28 78
2005 05 55 2029 29 79
2006 06 56 2030 30 80
2007 07 57 2031 31 81
2008 08 58 2032 32 82
2009 09 59 2033 33 83
2010 10 60 2034 34 84
2011 11 61 2035 35 85
2012 12 62 2036 36 86
2013 13 63 2037 37 87
2014 14 64 2038 38 88
2015 15 65 2039 39 89
2016 16 66 2040 40 90
2017 17 67 2041 41 94
2018 18 68 2042 42 92
2019 19 69 2043 43 93
2020 20 70 2044 44 94
2021 21 71 2045 45 95
2022 22 72 2046 46 96
2023 23 73 2047 47 97
2024 24 74 2048 48 98

Sizes and fonts for New type Number plates
(The mandatory font used for the new number plates is called "Charles Wright")

Dimension Measurement
Height 79mm
Width (except the figure 1 or letter l) 50mm
Stroke 14mm
Space between characters 11mm
Space between groups 33mm
Top, bottom and side margins (minimum) 11mm
Space between vertical lines 19mm

There is also optional provision for the display of 'Euro Plates' on UK vehicles, registered after 1st September 2003.  This is a plate that adds the 'EU' symbol with the identification letters of the EU member country below it, to the far left hand side of the plate.   Vehicles bearing these Euro Plates are exempt from having the oval 'GB' sticker which was previously a legal requirement, when travelling within the EU.  Additionally, from 28th December 2003 new number plates may optionally have the Union flag, Scottish Saltire, Cross of St George and Red Dragon instead of the EU symbol, but no other flag or logo is permitted.

What the Law Says

The law states that:

1.   You must not alter, rearrange or misrepresent the letters or numbers.

2.   Characters must not be moved from one group to the other (e.g. HK 43 KLA must not be displayed as HK4 3KLA).

3.   Only the original font (Charles Wright) may be used and must not be altered in any way, i.e. italics, or characters made to appear different by the inappropriate positioning of fixing screws etc.

Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £1,000.00, or the number plate withdrawn by DVLA

It is also an offence:

1.  Not to display a number plate on all mechanically propelled vehicles except electrically assisted pedal cycles.

2.  For your number plate to be obscured or not easily readable

3.  For any person to forge, alter or use or fraudulently lend or allow to be used by any person any registration mark

4.  For any requirement relating to the number, type, colour and size of the plates or layouts of the letters and numbers not to be complied with.

5.  As above for the number and position of the registration marks

6.  For the rear registration mark not to be illuminated during the hours of darkness so that it is easily legible from a distance of 18m except in the case of a bicycle, invalid carriage or a pedestrian controlled vehicle when it shall be 15m. (This requirement does not apply to works trucks or vehicles not required to be fitted with a rear registration plate)

On a trailer the registration plate must be the same as on the rear of the towing vehicle.  It is the vehicle owner's responsibility to ensure this.

Police throughout the country are regularly carrying out  campaigns against illegal number plates. If you are stopped showing an illegal number plate then you can be liable to a fixed penalty fine.  You may also be issued with a 'Vehicle Defect Rectification Form' which gives you 14 days to replace the plates with legal ones. Provided that you take your car to a testing station for them to certify that the plates have been changed and are now legal, then no further action will be taken once you have returned the form to the Central Ticket Office of the issuing Force within the time limit.

If you do not replace your plates after being told to do so by the Police and you are stopped for a second time then the Police can apply to the DVLA requesting them to consider withdrawing your registration number.  You could then have your illegal number plate withdrawn and be issued with a replacement in the form of a 'Q' plate.  Your precious personalised, and possibly expensive, number plate will be gone forever.

The British Standard

The British Standard sets out the physical characteristics on the number plate relating to:
1.  Visibility
2.  Strength
3.  Reflectivity 

The British Standard also requires that all number plates must be marked with:
1.  The British Standard Number (currently BS AU 145d) 
2.  The name, trade mark, or other means of identification of the manufacturer or component supplier. (The company who actually make the number plate.)
3.   The name and postcode of the supplying outlet. (The 'supplying outlet' is taken to mean a company whose business consists wholly or partly of selling number plates.) 
4.  There shall be no other markings or material contained on the number plate. 

A non-reflective border and the Euro-symbol with the national identification letters are optional additions.



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