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UK Number Plates Explained - Order Your 2020 Reg Plate Now

UK reg plates change twice a year. Find out why and when the new 2020 reg plate is coming out with our quick guide on car registrations.

Feb 07, 2020

UK Number Plates Explained - Order Your 2020 Reg Plate Now

Whether you’re patiently awaiting the upcoming 20 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 2020 reg plate series – makes sense right?

But the new 2020 reg plate isn’t available to buy until March and only gets registered on new vehicles until September. So what reg plate is used before March and what happens in September? 

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 2020 so the digits used will be 20). 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 happens in September?  

Things can get a little confusing when the second cycle of reg plates is released in September as we’d still be in the year 2020 but the Age Identifier would read 70 instead of 20. 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 2020 would have an Age Identifier of 70 (20 + 50). 

Here’s an example of a number plate you may see on a newly registered car later this year in September:

september 2020 UK number plate format

September 2020 number plate format

So, to answer our previous question – cars registered before March 2020 would be issued a 69 plate. Take a look at the Number Plate chart to see:



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 2020 reg plate?

reserve your 20 plate on new cars

Yes! You can now order and reserve your new car with a 2020 reg plate at your local Sandicliffe dealership. With choice spread across Ford, Kia, Nissan and Mazda, you're certain to find your perfect car in no time. Why not browse our latest offers and let us know which car you want to order? We can then reserve it with a brand-new 2020 reg plate ready for a speedy delivery!

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