UK Number Plates Explained - Order Your New 71 Reg Plate Now

UK reg plates change twice a year. Find out why and when the new 71 reg plate came out with our quick guide on car registrations.

Sep 02, 2020

UK Number Plates Explained - Order Your New 71 Reg Plate Now

Whether you’re patiently awaiting the upcoming 71 series or haven’t a clue what that means, our quick guide on how the UK number plate system works will get you up to speed in no time.

Ever since the implementation of the Motor Car Act in 1904, it has been a legal requirement for all vehicles to be issued with a unique registration number visible on a number plate.

Thanks to a new year, we’re fast approaching the next batch of car registration plates which happen to be the 2021 reg plate series – makes sense right?

But did you know there are 2 versions of the 2021 reg plate series? Read on to find out more. 

How do reg plates work?

If you aren’t familiar with the format of UK number plates, you may not know that car registrations for new vehicles change twice a year, every 6 months. This happens first in March, and then again 6 months later in September. 

The first batch of reg plates issued in March will always take the last 2 digits of the year we are in (we’re in the year 2021 so the digits used were 21). This is something we call an Age Identifier registration prefix - it will help you identify the age of a car by letting you know when it was registered so you can quickly calculate how old or new it is.

In front of the Age Identifier will be the Local Memory Tag registration prefix. This will tell you where the car was registered. The last 3 letters that appear after the Age Identifier are generated randomly and have no intended meaning. And there it is, you have your very own unique 7-digit registration number.

Curious to know where your car was first registered, or just fancy a nosey on which Local Memory Tags represent which city? View the full list here.

how to read registration prefixes infographic

How to read registration prefixes 

Now that you know how to read registration prefixes and know what they mean, we can decipher the number plate in the image above to be for a car:

(a) Registered in Stockton (NU)

(b) Registered between 1st March 2020 – 31st August 2020 

But what happened in September?  

Things got a little confusing when the second cycle of reg plates was released in September as we’re still in the year 2021 but the Age Identifier would read 71 instead of 21. This is because of the +50 rule which means any vehicle registered between the second cycle (between 1st September – 28th February) will take the last two digits of the year + 50.

So a vehicle registered between the second issuing of reg plates in 2021 has an Age Identifier of 71 (21 + 50). 

Here’s an example of a number plate you may see on a newly registered car after September 1st 2021:

september 2021 UK number plate format

September 2021 number plate format

Take a look at the Number Plate chart below to see a list of Age Identifiers over the years:



1 MAR - 31 AUG

1 SEPT - 28 FEB

2010/11 10 60
2011/12 11 61
2012/13 12 62
2013/14 13 63
2014/15 14 64
2015/16 15 65
2016/17 16 66
2017/18 17 67
2018/19 18 68
2019/20 19 69
2020/21 20 70
2021/22 21 71

UK Number Plate chart for the last ten years

What about private number plates?

Good question. Everything mentioned above refers to the traditional UK number plate format and private registration plates can differ depending on the amount of customisation in question. It’s usually cheaper to opt for a private plate that sticks to the 7-digit format and you can often find ones that are perfect for you without breaking the bank.

For example, if your name was George and wanted to let the world know, you could easily opt for a personalised reg plate in the standard UK number plate format:

personal plate example ge07 rge

But there are some things you’d need to consider. For example, personalised number plates cannot be used on vehicles older than what the Age Identifier displays. So in this case, the number plate GE07 RGE would not be allowed on vehicles registered before March 2007 as these vehicles would be older than the 07 plate series. 

You would, however, be able to use GE07 RGE on any car registered after March 2007 because the rule is: you can’t make your car seem newer than it is but an older Age Identifier is fine.

Private number plates are a very popular addition to any vehicle and can add an immediate touch of personalisation, but be careful not to over personalise! It can be easy to get carried away when customising your number plates, but anything from fancy fonts to unusual spacing would have you breaking the law. 

Other restrictions include character alteration, size of character, additions of religious symbols, sports logos and insignia as well as background customisation. Stick to the Charles Wright 2001 font (also available in 3D effect) and you’ll be good to go.

If you or a friend are looking to purchase private number plates, be sure to keep all of this in mind. 

Well there you go, you can now identify where a vehicle was registered, how old or new it is and have some handy tips ready if you ever choose to customise. Next time you’re out, ask yourself "how do number plates work?" and see how many vehicles you can identify.

Can I order the new 71reg plate now?

Yes! You can now order your new car with the latest 21 reg plate at your local Sandicliffe dealership. With choice spread across Ford, Nissan and Mazda, you're certain to find your perfect car in no time. Why not browse our latest offers and beat the rush for a speedy delivery?

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