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UK Number Plates Explained

An Easy Explanation Of The Different Types & Formats Of UK Number Plates.

We often refer to a vehicle registration as a number plate as generally the registration is shown on the actual or physical plate. Below you can see each format along with issue/release dates (all released via DVLA).

  • DATELESS 1903-1962

Number Plates issued between 1903-1962

The very first type of number plates ever to be used. Issued since 1903. They vary in length from 1x1 , 2x1, 3x3 or 4x2, (so from 2 to 6 characters)

DY 1 was the first ever issued in 1903, 120 years ago, with A1 and other short numbers being issued shortly afterwards. Back then registrations were issued to Councils nationwide and often allocated to Lord Mayors, and people of a high standing.

Original "Dateless registrations" were issued up until 1962. Dateless numberplate which have never previously been issued are released gradually by DVLA Swansea and sold via auctions which have been held several times a year since 1989.

Dateless number plates are often seen as the crème de la crème fetching the highest values. Short registrations have proven to be the best investments over the last 20-30 years, like 4 B, 3 D, 1 HN, 8 JB.

  • SUFFIX 1963-1982

Number Plates issued between 1963-1982

This format of registrations followed the dateless type once more and more vehicles began hitting the road. This style of number plate consists of 3 letters, followed by at least 1 number (1-999) and ends with a "suffix" year letter A to Y. Suffix number plates vary in length from 5 to 7 characters. Examples ABB 3Y or JAM 333S.

Some suffix registrations have become iconic from there appearance in movies such as BMT 216A which was the licence plate of the original Aston Martin DB5 loaned by Aston for the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965). HMP 729G was one of three which appeared on the Mini's in the 1969 movie the Italian Job, starring Michael Caine. Some similar registrations have then sold for high values and have been used on classic cars which have been restored to look like the vehicles used in the films.

Some excellent suffix plates were owned by 1980's celebrities, with registration MAG 1C being owned by TV personality / magician , the late Paul Daniels and COM 1C which was and we believe still is owned by Jimmy Tarbuck.

Suffix registrations remain very popular as they do not look like the usual current day registrations. They can contain initials or a 3 lettered name and be very distinct to look at whilst generally been cheaper than dateless registrations. JON 1B, AJS 6S

  • PREFIX 1982-2001

Number Plates issued between 1982-2001

This type of number plate format started as the suffix type can to its end. The format consists with "prefix" identifying year letter A (1982) to Y (2001) followed by a number 1 - 999, followed by 3 letters. Prefix's starting A1 , M3/M5 (BMW's) , M12 (Mr.) M155 (Miss) or D12 to depict Dr have all been top picks over the years. Also prefixes like B8, G6, H1, S5 have all been neat looking. Prefix number plates vary in length from minimum of 5 to a maximum of 7 characters.

Prefix number plates are very popular to this day, especially the 5 and 6 character ones which have a more personalised appearance and are in shorter supply.

  • CURRENT 2001-2049

Number Plates issued since September 2001

The style of number plate on all vehicles which has been with us for 22 years already and will continue to be so until 2049 when a new format may then be introduced.

Each reg is the same length (7 characters) consisting of 2 letters + an age identifying "2 digit number" followed by 3 letters. Example AB04 AJB or OO07 BND. Over the years some excellent number plates to resemble names can be made such as RU55 ELL, BA12 NEY, HA22 VEY, or BO55*** also have proven popular.

This year the '23 series' were released for use on new vehicles from 1st March and the "73" series launch in May and can be purchased ahead of being able to be used on brand new vehicles hitting the road from 1st September 2023.

Unsure when or where your private registration was issued, try our 'number plate checker'

See Our Easy Video Explainer Below;