Dating car registration plates

It goes without saying that it’s a legal requirement to display number plates and this has been the rule since 1903.While there are a number of different shapes of number plate for SUVs, lorries, motorbikes and cars, there are strict rules governing what a number plate must – and must not – contain.It’s usually possible to get yourself a plate with your initials on it relatively cheaply, but as a general rule of thumb, the closer a plate is to spelling out an actual name and the fewer characters it has, the more expensive it’ll be.There are a few restrictions when it comes to personalised number plates, though.On cars registered between 1 March and 31 August it denotes the decade, so a car registered between those dates in 2017, 2018 or 2019 will have a ‘17’, ‘18’ or ‘19’ registration.

It wasn’t until the arrival of the ‘51’ plate when today’s system started in March 2001 that the dramatic August sales surge was stemmed – although the current system was also implemented because the previous one had run out of unique combinations.

The allocation of these area codes was based on the the location of the DVLA’s regional offices, which have since closed.

The convention still remains, though, and if you see a post-2001 car whose number plate beings with the letter ‘G’, this tells you it was first registered in what the DVLA quaintly calls the ‘Garden of England’ – namely Maidstone and Brighton.

With its somewhat arcane nature, it’s astonishing that the system became so familiar – the only way to understand it was to memorise what each letter meant. Why buy a car in July when you could have one on with the latest registration mark on 1 August?

Under the current system, registration marks change twice a year, in March and September, so the rush to have the latest style of plate is nowhere near as pronounced as it once was.

Search for dating car registration plates:

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During the first decade of the present system, cars registered between these dates received a ‘5’ year prefix. So, a car registered on 21 October 2013 will have a ‘63’ registration. Cars registered from the beginning of September that year will be issued ‘70’ plates, and so the process continues.

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