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The ultimate number plate guide

Number Plate Guide

Annual number plate changes are standard practice in the UK with the current system being in place since 2001. With new registration plates being released in March and September each year, the 17-plate will be replace the 66-plate in March 2017. But what does it all mean?

Understanding how a number plate is made up is a useful bit of knowledge to have, especially if you are looking to buy a car. It is much easier to calculate a car's age with the latest number plate system. The year in which the car was made is detailed by the numbers present in the registration. For example, a car made in 2016 will have '16' in its registration. If it is registered in the September plate change, it will have the same year plus 50 i.e. '66'. This is standard across all cars registered since 2001, so you can easily work out the age of a vehicle if you are looking to purchase a used car.

The rest of a registration plate is made up of letters. The first two letters identify the location of where the vehicle was registered. For example, LA – LY covers London and MA – MY indicates the vehicle was registered in Manchester and Merseyside. The last three letters of the number plate are randomly selected and allocated to dealers when the vehicles are registered

Personalised plates, however, are an exception to the rules and will often read differently to the usual two-letter, two-number, three-letter sequence of a standard registration plate. The current system is able to run up until February 2051, with the last age-identifier being '00'. At this time the DVLA is likely to review and update the number plate registration system.


How can I get the best deal on a new number plate?

The cheapest and easiest way to get a new number plate and a new car is through a part exchange deal it here at Lookers.

You can buy a personalised number plate but you need to note something very important. Depending on the age of your vehicle, there may be restrictions as to the registration that can appear on your vehicle.

Where the personalised registration number has an age identifier, you can only put that number onto a vehicle of equal age or newer. For example, if you were to purchase a 54 current style registration plate, you can only put this on a vehicle that is registered as new on September 1, 2008 or after.

As you cannot add a new vehicle registration plate onto a car that is older than the plate suggests, you might need to buy the new car to go with it. All vehicles from September 2016 will bear the new 66-plate registrations. A good way to get the new number plate and registered car is through part exchange. This means that you sell Lookers your car and this stands as a part payment for a new car carrying an up-to-date number plate.

For more information about acquiring the upcoming 66 plate, talk to one of our experienced helpful staff members at Lookers today. Alternatively, visit us at one of our many dealerships located across the UK and place an order on your very own 66-registered number plate.


How the number plate system works

In 2001, the DVLA phased out the old once-a-year system and replaced it with the twice-annual number plate system which is still in place today.

The old system used to identify the age of the car with the first letter, which changed every year in August. The second and third numbers would be randomly selected and two of the final three letters would designate the area of registration, while the final letter would again be chosen at random.

In this current plate system, there are three significant sections. The first two letters represent the 'local memory tag', which indicates where in the UK the vehicle was registered. For example, the letter combinations running from LA to LY are all indicative of London registration.

Next, the third and fourth digits are known as the 'age identifier'. These are changed every six months in both March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year. For example, a London car registered in March 2016 would read LA16. In September, 50 is added to this number. Therefore if the same car was registered in September 2016, its number plate would read LA66.

Finally, the last three letters are chosen at random and allocated when the car is registered. These are generated by a computer, but are checked by people so that no offensive results are selected! If you want to buy a new car with the latest number plate, it is advisable to wait until March or September. If you are looking for a used bargain it is best to buy earlier, before the newest number plates are released.


How can I calculate a car's age?

Calculating a car's age is important when assessing the quality of a car and how much insurance you are going to need to pay for it. Read our quick and easy guide to find out a car's age at one glance.

In September 2001, the new number plate system came into existence. By introducing the current car registration system in 2001 with a 51 plate, many people were confused. Especially when in March 2002, the next number in the sequence was 02. While this does not seem logical at first, it really is obvious once you understand the strategy. Here at Lookers we want to show you a simple way to work out the age of your car.

Unlike the old system, the first two letters in this current plate system represent the 'local memory tag', which indicates where in the UK the vehicle is registered. For example, the letter combinations running from LA to LY are all indicative of London registration. Before the introduction of the new system in 2001, these letters were the signifiers of the age of a car.

Now, the third and fourth digits are known as the 'age identifier'. These are changed every six months in both March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year.

For example, a London car registered in March 2016 might read LA16. In September, 50 is always added to this number. Therefore if the same car were to be registered in September 2016, its number plate would read LA66.


How does the plate change affect personalised plates?

Depending on the age of your vehicle, there may be restrictions as to the registration that can appear on the number plate of your vehicle. Before making your choice you must take note of these limitations. The third and fourth digits on your number plate are known as the 'age identifier'. These are changed every six months in March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year. For example, a car registered in March 2016 it will show the number 16. In September, 50 is always added to this number. Therefore if the same car were to be registered in September 2016, its number plate's third and fourth units would be 66.

Where the personalised registration number has an age identifier (i.e. the two numbers in the first section of your number plate), you can only put that number onto a vehicle of equal age or newer. For example, if your personalised number plate had the numbers 08 or 58 in it, then the car will have to have been registered in 2008 or after.

It is important to keep in mind that these restrictions still apply for older cars too. If you wish to start your personalised registration plate with a singular letter, you must check the old number plate system to see if it is suitable for your car. If you choose a W, for example, then you must ensure that your car was made in or after the year 2000.


When do the new number plates come out?

The Driver Licensing Vehicle Agency (DVLA) decides the whole procedure of when and why number plates change. In 2001, the DVLA changed the format in which they registered cars, moving from the annual plate change to the current bi-annual process. This procedure will be in place until the DVLA must reconsider it in the year 2050.

Starting from September 1 2016, all new cars in the UK will carry the number 66. This will apply to any new vehicle registered on any particular date up until February 28th, 2017. The number 66 will be placed in the centre of the number plate, following two letters that signify the area in which the vehicle was registered. These central numbers are known as the 'age identifier'.

These are changed every six months in both March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year. For example, a car registered in March 2016 would include the number 16, and 50 is always added to this number in September of the same year. Therefore if a car were to be registered in September 2016, its number plate would read 66.


How can I get a new number plate?

UK registration plates are due to change again on March 1, 2017.  Trade up to a newer model from your nearest Lookers dealership and be the owner of the newest number plate on the market.

The third and fourth digits on your number plate are known as the 'age identifier'. These are changed every six months in both March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year. For example, a car registered in March 2016 it will show the number 16. There are a few ways in which you can be the owner of a new registration plate. You can buy a personalised number with the plate, but you must be aware of the restrictions that are in place on using personalised plates. To find out more, look at our guide to finding your perfect personalised plate or call our helpful team at Lookers today.

Another way you can easily own the 66 number plate is by trading your old car in for a new one from Lookers. All vehicles registered after September 2016 will bear the 66 number plate. A sensible and easy way to buy a new car from Lookers is to part exchange your current car. This means using your car as a part payment for your new car rather than buying the new model outright. Depending on your existing model, your car can serve as a deposit for your new car or even reduce your monthly payments.


The history of number plates

Licence plates have been around for as long as there have been automobiles. France was the first country to introduce the licence plate in 1893, followed by Germany in 1896. Next was the Netherlands in 1898, followed closely by the US in 1901. The UK finally decided to join in when the Motor Car Act made registration plates a legal requirement on January 1, 1904.

The first series of number plates were issued in 1903 and ran until 1932, consisting of a one or two-letter code followed by a sequence number from 1 to 9999. The code indicated the local authority in whose area the vehicle was registered. In England and Wales these were initially allocated in order of population size, as determined by the 1901 census. Thus A indicated London and FP indicated the smaller population of Rutland.

By 1932, however, the available codes were running out. An extended scheme was introduced that placed a serial letter before the code and the numbers only ran to 999. By the 1950s, this scheme had already hit a dead end. The next successful and long-running format was the prefix registration format. Prefix registrations, those that existed before 2001, all adhered to the format of a single year identifying letter. Then this would be followed by a number that may be one, two or three digits in length. Finally, the registration plate would end in three letters that would identify the area of the country in which the registration was issued.

Since 2001, this number has now taken on more importance. It is now the number that has become the 'age identifier'. These registrations follow the format of a two-letter prefix (the location), a two-digit year identifier and three more randomly selected letters. The year identifier works in this way: in March the number will simply echo the last two digits of the year (i.e. 16 in March 2016) and in September 50 is added to this number (i.e. 66 in September 2016).


How to calculate the year of your vehicle's registration plate

Calculating your car's age is important when assessing how much insurance you should be paying for it. Our quick and easy guide will show you how to find out a car's age at a glance. In September 2001, the new number plate system came into existence. By introducing the current car registration system in 2001 with a 51 plate, many people did not understand the jump from the old format. Especially when, in March 2002, the next number in the sequence was 02. There is an easy explanation for this, and here at Lookers we want to show you a simple way to work out the age of your car.

In this current plate system the first two letters represent the 'local memory tag', which indicates where in the UK the vehicle is registered. For example, the letter combinations running from LA to LY are all indicative of London registration. The third and fourth digits are known as the 'age identifier'. These are changed every six months in both March and September. In March, the digits will always be the same as the last two digits of the year. For example, a London car registered in March 2016 might read LA16. In September, 50 is always added to this number. Therefore if the same car were to be registered in September 2016, its number plate would read LA66.


What is a vehicle registration number?

In the UK, vehicle registration plates (or number plates) usually indicate both the vehicle's place of origin and age. It is compulsory for most motor vehicles used on public roads to display one. Since September of 2001, there has been a new system in place which consists of two letters, two digits, then three letters. The first group gives the place of origin, and the second group gives the age. The second group is often known as the 'age identifier'. The last group does not tell you anything about the car; these are randomly selected letters to make your car's registration unique.

The first group, or the 'local memory tag' indicates the exact registration office at which they were registered. The letters I, Q and Z are not used as local office identifiers, they are only used as randomly selected letters. The first of the two letters stands for the name of the broader area from where the car is registered. For example, A would signify that the car was registered at one of the three offices located in East Anglia.

The two-digit age identifier changes twice a year, in March and September. The code is either the last two digits of the year itself (i.e. 16 in the March 2016) or that number plus 50 (i.e. 66 in September 2016). By knowing this, you can always tell how old a car is that was registered after 2001. The final three letter sequence uniquely distinguishes each of the vehicles that displays the same first four characters.

This scheme should have sufficient numbers to run until 2051. To find out more about registration numbers, the new 2016 registration plate or to register your interest in a new car displaying one of the latest registrations, call us at Lookers today or visit one of our dealerships located across the UK.