Last updated January 26, 2022
Have you heard about the new ‘71’ number plate that launched this September? The UK number plate system can seem a little confusing at first glance, so let's take a look at exactly how the system works, what the characters on a UK car registration plate mean and how you can use it to your advantage!
Understanding and being able to read car registration plates is a handy skill to have; it will usually allow you to calculate the age of a vehicle (unless the plate has been changed to a custom registration number) and its place of origin, which can be useful when buying a new or used car and knowing when the best time is to get your car valued.
The year in which the car was manufactured is shown by the numbers on the registration plate:
As you probably know, the rest of the characters on a UK car registration plate are made up of letters; some of these characters mean something too:
The first two letters on the registration plate are a ‘local memory tag’ and identify where the car was registered. The table below shows the breakdown of the DVLA memory tags, please note that the letters I, Q and Z are not used in the memory tag identifiers.
|Letter||Region||DVLA local memory tag identifier|
|D||Deeside to Shrewsbury||DA-DY|
|F||Forest & Fens||FA-FY|
|G||Garden of England||GA-GY|
|H||Hampshire & Dorset||HA-HY (HW is exclusive for the Isle of White)|
|M||Manchester & Merseyside||MA-MY (MN and MAN is reserved for Isle of Man)|
|W||West of England||WA-WY|
The last three letters on UK registration plates are randomly selected by a computer (and manually checked by humans to ensure no offensive words are produced!) and then allocated to dealers once the vehicles have been registered.
Personalised registration plates are often an exception to these rules, with people being able to pay extra for a bespoke registration plate made of a unique sequence of letters and numbers. The current system by which UK car registration plates are printed is able to run until February 2051, at which point the DVLA will likely update the number plate registration system.
You can use the plate change in a number of ways, based on what it is you’re looking to achieve.
Firstly, new number plates are desirable as they show your car is brand new and likely contains all of the latest features, gadgets and performance perks that come with a modern vehicle. Therefore, if you bought a new car before the ’71’ plate change, that car could be more desirable at resale than if you were to wait.
While there are many obvious perks to owning a brand new car, there are some perks that come solely from owning a car fitted with the latest number plate. In many cases, this is a popular choice for car enthusiasts, business executives/owners and those who enjoy flaunting their latest toys and gadgets!
Secondly, buying a used car in the run-up to a new plate being released can land you a real bargain. In months directly before a new plate change (February and August) business can become a little slow for car dealers as buyers are waiting for new releases. As a result of this, dealers are much more likely to offer better deals on cars and become more flexible during any negotiation stages of the purchase.
Finally, because of the reduction in the value of older cars when a newly manufactured batch is released, the period before the plate change can be a wise time to sell, often allowing you to get more for your car before it is considered another year older. Simply put, if you sell before the 1st September, you could get a better price!
If you purchased a new fully electric car or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle after December 8th 2020, you can have a “green number plate” on your vehicle. These number plates have a green section on the left-hand side of the reg plate, which indicates that the car emits zero emissions.
If you don’t like the green section on your number plate, you can opt out, although dealers are likely to install them as standard on newly purchased electric vehicles. At the moment, these green number places are only decorative and do not grant any specific EV privileges.