UK Number Plates

1903 - 1932 (Dateless Number Plates)

The concept of the vehicle number plate was first introduced in the 'Motor Car Act 1903'. The initial format was in use until 1932. It consisted of a one or two letter code representing the local authority where the vehicle was registered (allocated by size of population, A = London), followed by a number between 1-9999. When all the numbers in the sequence had been used, the local Authority was allocated another two letter code on a first come first served basis.

1932 - 1963

In 1932 the format changed to three letters and a number between 1-999. The first letter and three numbers were sequentially issued from AXX 1 - AXX 999 before moving to BXX 1.. The second and third letters were an area identifier. When the sequence was used up, the format was reversed to be 3 numbers followed by three letters.

1963 - 1982 (Suffix Number Plates)

The next format to be introduced was the seven characters long. Three letters, a number between 1 and 999, plus a suffix letter indicating the year the registration number was issued. The suffix 'A' was issued in 1963, through to 'Y' in 1982. Letters I, O, Q, U and Z were not used for the suffix letters, due to the possibility of them being misread. New suffixes were originally assigned on January 1st each year. This changed to 1 August in 1967 in an attempt to even out vehicle sales over the year.

1983 - 2001 (Prefix Number Plates)

After the suffix format reached 'Y', the format was reversed. It was now a prefix letter indicating the year, a number between 1 and 999, followed by three characters. Letters I, O, U and Z were excluded from the prefix sequence and Q was now used for vehicles of indeterminate age (kit cars, stolen, imports without documentation). Beginning 1 March 1999 the prefix changed twice a year to try and flatten the peak of sales in August.

2001 - (Current System)

AB12 ABC

The current number plate format was introduced on 1 September 2001. The registration format is seven characters long and is made up of a two letter area code, two number age identifier and a random three letter sequence. The first letter of the area code is a mnemonic for the region and the second letter is the local DVLA office (although all the local DVLA offices closed in 2013) the car was registered at. The local area codes are listed below. The age identifier changes on 1 March and 1 September each year. For registrations between 1 March and 31 August, the identifier is the last two digits of the year (e.g. 1 March 2001 - 31 August 2001 = 01). Between September and February, 50 is added to the number ( e.g. 1 September 2011 - 29 February 2012 = 61).

Mnemonic Region Office Area Codes
A Anglia Peterborough AA AB AC AD AE AF AG AJ AK AM AN
Norwich AO AP AR AS AT AU
Ipswich AV AW AX AY
B Birmingham Birmingham BA BB BC BD BE BF BG BH BJ BK BL BM BN BO BP BR BS BT BU BV BW BX
C Cymru (Wales) Cardiff CA CB CC CD CE CF CG CH CJ CK CL CM CN CO
Swansea CP CR CS CT CU CV
Bangor CW CX CY
D Deeside Chester DA DB DC DD DE DF DG DH DJ DK
Shrewsbury DL DM DN DO DP DS DT DU DV DW DX DY
E Essex Chelmsford EA EB EC EE EF EG EJ EK EL EM EN EO EP ER ES ET EU EV EW EX EY
F Forest and Fens Nottingham FA FB FC FD FE FF FG FH FJ FK FL FM FN FP
Lincoln FR FS FT FV FW FX FY
G Garden of England Maidstone GA GB GC GD GE GF GG GH GJ GK GL GM GN
Brighton GP GR GS GT GU GV GW GX GY
H Hampshire and Dorset Bournemouth HA HB HC HD HE HF HG HH HJ
Portsmouth HK HL HM HN HP HR HS HT HU HV HX HY
Isle of Wight HW
K No official mnemonic Borehamwood (formerly Luton) KA KB KC KD KE KF KG KH KJ KK KL
Northampton KM KN KO KP KR KS KT KU KV KW KX KY
L London Wimbledon LA LB LC LD LE LF LG LH LJ
Borehamwood (formerly Stanmore) LK LL LM LN LO LP LR LS LT
Sidcup LU LV LW LX LY
M Manchester and Merseyside Manchester MA MB MC MD ME MF MG MH MJ MK ML MM MP MT MU MV MW MX
N North Newcastle NA NB NC ND NE NF NG NH NJ NK NL NM NN NO
Stockton NP NR NS NT NU NV NW NX NY
O Oxford Oxford OA OB OC OD OE OF OG OH OJ OL OM OO OP OT OU OV OW OX OY
P Preston Preston PA PB PC PD PE PF PG PH PJ PK PL PM PN PO PP PR PS PT
Carlisle PU PV PW PX PY
R Reading Reading RA RB RC RD RE RF RG RH RJ RK RL RM RN RO RP RR RS RT RV RW RX RY
S Scotland Glasgow SA SB SC SD SE SF SG SH SJ
Edinburgh SK SL SM SN SO
Dundee SP SR SS ST
Aberdeen SV SW
Inverness SX SY
V Severn Valley Worcester VA VB VC VE VF VG VH VJ VK VL VM VN VO VP VR VS VT VU VV VX VY
W West of England Exeter WA WB WD WE WF WG WH WJ
Truro WK WL
Bristol WM WN WO WP WR WS WT WU WV WW WX WY
Y Yorkshire Leeds YA YB YC YD YE YF YG YH YJ YK YL
Sheffield YM YN YO YP YR YS YT YU YV
Beverley YW YX YY
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