Ever looked at your car’s number plate and thought to yourself…what does it all actually mean? Well, here is a quick guide made by us here at Canterbury Motoring World to help you get a better understanding as knowing how a number plate is made up is a useful bit of knowledge to have particularly if you are looking to buy a used car.

Number plates on vehicles have been used since 1903 in the UK. However, interestingly within the UK there are two different numbering systems used as Northern Ireland use a slightly different format to the rest of the United Kingdom. Additionally, it is also common to see personalised number plates on vehicles in the UK, however these do not follow the same format or rules as the current system in which we are explaining below.

Since 1999, Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) get a new registration released twice a year, with this current format first being introduced in September 2001 and should be sufficient to use up until the year 2051. It is compulsory to have a registration plate on your vehicle that adheres to the Road Vehicles Regulations 2001 laws, the main rule being that they must all look the same, having one white plate at the front and one yellow one of the back and all seven characters must be black. These regulations ensure that due to their colour, size and shape, number plates aren’t only easily read by the human eye but also by cameras and computers when using Automatic Number Plate Recognition.

There are 3 different parts to the current number plate, althree_parts_to_a_number_platel have their own purpose and meaning:

  1. Local Memory Tag – these first 2 letters are an indication as the where the vehicle was first registered. The first letter represents the region, with the second letter representing the local DVLA office.
  2. Age Identifier – these two numbers do exactly what the label suggests, shows you the age of the vehicle. This is the part of the registration plate that changes twice a year, on the 1st March and then again on the 1st
  3. Random Element – these 3 letters at the end of your registration have no specific meaning, it is just the element of the number plate that gives your cars its unique identity. (fun fact: these last 3 letters are genera
    ted at random by a computer but are then double checked by actual people to ensure the results don’t spell out anything offensive!)

There are a number of advantages of using the current number plate format:

  • Buyers of second-hand vehicles can easily know the age of the car without looking into its paperwork
  • In cases of accidents or vehicle related crimes the current system makes it easier for the police to identify and narrow down suspects.

We hope you know have a better understanding of the current number plate system that we use but don’t panic if you come into Canterbury Motoring World looking for a used car and still are a bit unsure, our staff are there to help and answer any questions!

Author: Rebecca McGinty



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