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Everything You Need to Know about Vehicle Number Plates

Get answers to all the important questions about number plates, including personalised plates & how to get the best deal on a new-reg car.

Feb 26, 2016

The new number plates are coming out on 1st March, which means 65-reg plates will be replaced with 16-reg plates. If you’re thinking of selling your old car and upgrading to a 16-reg, or just want to understand how the number plate system works, this post should cover everything you need to know as a road user. 
 

What do car number plates mean?

Since 1999, number plates changed twice per year and in 2001, the current plate format was introduced. The format consists of three parts: 
 
Local memory tag – The first two letters of a car number plate. The first letter represents a region of the UK and the second represents a local DVLA office. 
 
Age identifier – This is the most commonly recognised part of a number plate. It’s the two numbers in the middle, which represent the age of the vehicle. These change for every six month period that a vehicle is registered i.e. 1st March – 31st August or 1st September – 29th February. The graph of number plate age identifiers illustrates this. 
 
car number plate age identifiers
 
Random letters – The last three letters of a number plate are random, to ensure that every vehicle has a unique registration. 
 

What was the old number plate format?

Before 2001, vehicle number plates followed the format: A 745 DEF. 
 
The first letter was the age identifier to represent the year in which the car was registered – updated on 1st August. In 1999, this letter was changed every six months. The next three numbers were generated randomly to make the number plate unique. 
 
The next two letters represented the area where the vehicle was registered, and the last letter was random. From 1963 to 1983, the age identifying letter appeared at the end of a vehicle’s number plate. 
 
One of the main reasons why the number plate system was updated in 2001 to change every six months, was to boost car sales. In previous decades, sales figures would go up dramatically in August as people wanted to be seen in the newest car, which caused business to trail off for the rest of the year. Updating registration plates twice a year kept demand more steady across a 12 month period.
 

Should I wait to buy a new car in March or September?

If you want your new car to have the latest number plate, you can arrange with your car dealer to register and deliver the vehicle at the start of March or September. However, if you are more concerned with getting a good discount than having the very latest technology in an updated model, it’s probably worth buying a new car at the end of its six month registration period. 
 
For example, car dealers often want to shift stock of 65-reg cars in February to make way for the 16-reg models, so will offer great discounts and low finance for a brand new car. 
 

How does number plate system affect personalised plates?

The third and fourth digits (age identifiers) of modern car number plates have an impact on your choice of personalised number plate. On personalised plates with age identifiers, you must choose numbers that are equal to or above the vehicle’s period of registration. For example, a personalised plate with 15 or 65 in it would have to be registered in 2015 or after.
 
When choosing a personalised number plate, it’s also important to know the rules governing UK number plate formats. 
 
• All number plates must use the mandatory font (pictured below)
• You must replace your personalised number plate if it uses stylised letters and numbers, such as italics, or bolts to alter the appearance of the digits. Failure to do so can result in prosecution. 
• All number plate digits must use the mandatory font size and display requirements. 
 
car number plate display requirements
 

How to get a good deal on a new number plate car

If you would like to buy a car with a newly registered number plate in March or September, the best way to get a good deal is to take advantage of part exchange. At Sandicliffe, you can get thousands for part exchange of your previous vehicle – depending on the manufacturer. Skoda owners can also enjoy a loyalty bonus to put towards their new number plate Skoda, to make buying the latest model more affordable. 
 
Visit our website to browse and configure our range of 16-reg new Ford, Nissan, Skoda, Kia and Mazda vehicles. At Sandicliffe, you can get a quick finance quote and book a test drive online for an up-to-date 16-reg model. As for delivery, we have new car dealerships across Nottingham, Leicester and Loughborough so we can order-in specific models with ease.

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