Car Registration Plates: Everything You Need To Know

car registration plates

Although they might seem like a random arrangement of letters and numbers, there is actually a rhyme and reason to car registration plates. Number plates are issued twice per year, meaning it can be a lot to keep up with when figuring out how old a car is. 

In this guide, we’re going to look at why car number plates look like they do. Additionally, we will discuss how to change registration plates on a car. Keep reading for everything you need to know. 

How To Understand Car Registration Plates

car registration plates

The number plate system currently changes twice per year. First in March and later in September. The first letter in the registration indicates the region the car has been registered in. The second letter represents the local DVLA office.

Then comes the two-digit code which acts as the age identifier. New car number plate registrations in March use the last two numbers in the year. For instance, a car first registered in March 2018 would have ’18’ as part of its number.

The second issue of plates in September is also used to identify the year, but you add 50. So, taking 2018 as the example again, new cars registered in September 2018 would include the number ’68.’

Finally, three letters are chosen at random to complete standard British car registration plates.

Old Car Registration Plates

car registration plates

The bi-annual change of plates was introduced many years ago to prevent customers from rushing out to buy the latest plate change every year.

Back then, customers were unwilling to buy a new car in July if the plates were to change in August. This could affect the resale price, plus people just like to have new things. This is why a twice-yearly plate change was introduced in 1999.

However, when the scheme was first introduced it didn’t have the desired effect. The issue was that there wasn’t enough distinction between plates issued in the first and second halves of the year.

From 1983 to late 2001, number plates were issued with a letter in the alphabet denoting the year cars were registered. In 1983 the prefix was A, then in 1984 it was B, and so on until 2001.

The new year-specific system is thought to have taken care of that mega rush.

For classic car registration plates, before 1983, the letters still denoted the year of registration but they were placed at the end of the registration number, rather than the beginning.

Illegal Car Registration Plates

car registration plates

You could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if your number plates do not adhere to the strict display rules.

Using an unrecognised font, italics, or placing bolts strategically to make characters look like something else are all illegal.

The specific spacing between the characters is also not allowed to be altered on British car registration plates. This is to ensure easy readability and to allow ANPR cameras to correctly identify drivers.

Personalised Car Registration Plates 

car registration plates

There is a good chance you have spotted a car on the roads with a personalised registration plate. Since 1989, the DVLA realised there was good money to be made from selling personalised plates and now it is big business.

People can buy car registration plates for anything from a few hundred pounds to several hundred thousand pounds. Generally, the fewer characters displayed and the closer to a real word the plate is, the more expensive it will be.

It’s typically not too difficult or expensive to get your initials on your plate, for instance.

While you may spell out most words, there are a few rules for personalised plates that the DVLA sticks strongly to. Any plates displaying expletives are not accepted. Even ambiguous ones are discarded.

Additionally, you cannot create a personalised plate that makes your car seem younger than it is. There is no rule against making your registration plates make your car seem older than it is, though.

In England, Scotland and Wales, drivers can display the flag of their nation if they wish. The Union flag, St. George’s cross, Saltire, or Red Dragon of Wales have been allowed on number plates since 2009.

As of 2020, the government has given the go-ahead for electric vehicles that produce zero carbon emissions to display a green banner on the plate. The hope is that it will increase the visibility of zero-emission vehicles on the roads and encourage more drivers to buy them.

Other than the green zero-emissions badge, no other symbols or flags can be displayed on a UK registration plate.

Following Brexit, unless your plate has the GB flag on it already, you must display GB stickers while driving in the European Union.

How To Transfer A Registration Plate To Another Car 

If you no longer wish to keep your personalised plate you can sell it or put it on retention to be used at a later date.

Vehicle registration is overseen by the DVLA. So you will have to fill in a V317 form and send it to the organisation. 

There are two options when using this form. Firstly, you can move your plate from an old car to a new one. Secondly, you can put it on retention using what is known as a ‘retention document.’

Once you place a plate on retention, it may be stored for up to 10 years before you decide to re-register it to a car again.

When transferring your personalised plate to a new vehicle, you must wait until that car actually exists. You may have ordered a new car from the dealer. But until it has been physically made and registered, you cannot change the plates.

The DVLA needs a record of the car existing before it will transfer the plates over. The vehicle must also be available for inspection by the DVLA and in a fit state to pass its MOT.

You can fill out the V317 form either on paper or online. Including the make, model, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN).

Buying With FairSquare

With the car registration plates set to change once again in March, it might be time to start thinking about buying a new car.

Thanks to FairSquare’s extensive range of new and used cars, you could find the car of your dreams in just a few clicks.

While many online dealers only offer their customers used cars, FairSquare is committed to delivering new vehicles to your door.

We also offer a range of finance options based on your credit rating to ensure that no matter your budget you can find the right car for you.

We hope that you found this guide useful. Whilst you’re here, why not check out some more useful articles on our blog such as, Where To Buy Used Cars In Today’s Automotive Industry and How To Haggle For A Used Car From A Dealer & Private Seller.

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