Number Plate Formats Explained Character Details
In fact, when the DVLA issues a car’s registration plate, they actually follow a very distinct system.
While it may look like a random combination, a number plate can actually tell you how old the car is and where it was registered.
A new format for registrations was introduced in September 2001, meaning all cars registered after that date would have their number plate made up of three parts.
How to tell where the car is from
The first section of a number plate is the local memory tag – the first two letters of the plate.
This identifies where the vehicle was registered, and is itself broken down into two parts.
The first letter stands for the local area, for example E denotes Essex, while L stands for London.
The plate’s second letter then identifies at which DVLA office in that area the registration took place – multiple letters can signify the same DVLA office.
How anyone can tell how old your car is just by looking at it
The two numbers in the middle of your plate identify how old the car is.
The DVLA issues two lots of number plate combinations each year on March and September 1st.
All plates issued between the 1 March and the end of August will use the same two numbers as the year they are registered.
For example, a car registered in May 2017 would have “17”.
Vehicles registered between September 1 and the end of February the following year, use a similar pattern of higher numbers.
When the format changed in 2001, this group of vehicles were identified differently by starting the labelling from “51” rather than “01”.
Therefore this second lot of numbers will always be 50 plus the year the car was registered – so after 2010, the number starts with a 6.
For example, a vehicle registered in December 2009 will show “59” on its plate but December 2011 will be “61”.
Is any of the plate random?
The final three letters of the number plate tend to be a random combination that make the registration unique.
But it’s not uncommon for cars with neighbouring letter sequences to be from the same manufacturer, due to batch allocation of new registrations to dealers by the DVLA.
The letters “Q” and “I” are excluded from the random sequence, along with any phrases that are deemed offensive.
Using the current scheme, there will be a sufficient combinations to last until the end of February 2051.
What about registrations before September 2001?
From 1983 onward, licence plates used a leading single letter to represent the year of first registration.
The letter “A” was used in 1983, progressing through the alphabet, finishing with “Y” at the end of August 2001.
The rest of the characters on the plate were random.
Prior to 1983, the same system was used, but with the year letter at the end of the plate rather than the beginning.
A PETITION against a police chief's decision to sell the first number plate issued to the county has gathered over 850 signatures.
Retired police constable Alan Matthews started the online petition after he found out that the 'AB 1' licence plate was up for auction.
Police enthusiasts have lambasted the decision to sell the plate, which has traditionally been used on the staff cars of Worcestershire's Chief Constables.
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) John Campion claims the sale will enable him to invest in frontline policing.
Mr Matthews, aged 69, who worked for West Mercia Police from 1985 to 1994, said: "It's a piece of police heritage that shouldn't be sold off.
"It was the original number that the chief had. I just think that there's other ways the PCC could save money.
"I'm getting quire ratty about it. When you have been in the police you see how much waste there is.
"It's a sad thing that people in the UK have so much history but don't think much of it."
Jon Cherry, the director of regplates.com, thinks the plate will sell for between £225,000 and £275,000.
He said: "We have sold similar plates recently at this level and the market for high quality original issue number 1 plates is very strong.
"The buyers of these are intent on having only the best and only this plate will suffice!"
Mr Campion said his priority is use the assets at his disposal to make West Mercia a safe place.
"The prospect of a chief constable or any public servant using a private number plate belongs in a time gone by, both for security reasons and public expectation," he said.
"Therefore a considered decision has been made to market ‘AB 1’ and any sale proceeds will be reinvested towards frontline policing in West Mercia."
He acknowledged the history behind the plate but said it had not been used for around six years.
A spokesman for Mr Campion said he was not selling anything else apart from the number plate.
Vehicle registration was introduced in 1903 and it is believed 'AB 1' was first issued to Worcestershire's Chief Constable Herbert Sutherland Walker in 1908.
“Once you’ve bagged that number plate – if it’s a good one it adds value to it. Some are iconic and will be sought after. Some of the best are simple but exquisite.”
The biggest went for £180,000 in May last year – for KR15 HNA – which was a new British record for the most expensive current style personalised registration plate.
Today, plates with just one number and two letters cost an estimated £60,000, 20 times more than the early 1990s, when drivers could expect to pay somewhere between £3,000 to £5,000.
A DVLA spokesman said: “Many people enjoy displaying a personalised registration number and the general sale and auctions remain extremely popular with the public.
“Since we began selling personalised registrations we have raised around £2.3 billion and all the money raised is passed to the Treasury.”
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