A Guide to Car Number Plates in the UK

Number plates can be a bit confusing, right? What do they mean? Well, once you know how they work, it's actually very easy to extract some information, such as the year the vehicle was registered and where it was registered. And whilst the last three letters on number plates are generated at random, the whole thing put together isn't as random as it seems. Want to know more? Here are answers to frequently asked questions on number plates in the UK!

How do you read number plates?

With the current UK number plate format, there are two letters, two numbers, and another three letters. The first two letters use the DVLA memory tag identifier to represent the place where the car was registered. The next two numbers tell us the age of the vehicle and the half of the year when it was registered. For the last three letters, they are a random combination that completes the number plate. 

What do the number plate letters stand for?

The letters we see on number plates represent the location where the vehicle was registered. Most of the letters in the alphabet are used, except I, Q, and Z. For example, London is assigned the letter L, and if you register your car there, you may get one of the registration plate area codes for London, such as LA, LO, LX, or another combination with the first letter being L. 

Can you get personalised number plates?

The DVLA Personalised Registrations service is available to drivers who want to have their unique private number plates. You may buy your preferred number plate or bid at an auction for available plates. Auctions are done in person, over the phone, online or in writing. The DVLA website has a number plate check tool, so you can easily see if the private plate you want is available.

How to change your car number plate?

Simply visit the DVLA official website to start the process. It's very easy and straightforward. As for the cost, prices for custom number plates typically start at £250 inclusive of VAT and an assignment fee of £80. Other than that, the only other fee you need to pay is for the physical number plate to be made. Some custom number plates are more expensive than others, so be sure you don't choose the most expensive number plate unintentionally! 😅 

When do the number plates change?

Two age identifiers are used every year for the number plates of registered vehicles. The "23" number plate was made available in March 2023. This means that the newest vehicles will have 23 on their number plates. But by September 2023, the "73" plates will start rolling out. Before the "23" plate, there was the "72" identifier which was released on September 2022. 

What year is my car by number plate?

When registering a vehicle, the identifier you get for your number plate depends on which half of the year you registered it. For example, if you registered your car between 1 March to 31 August 2023, you'll have the "23" plate. But from 1 September to 29 February 2024, you'll get 73 as the age identifier on the number plate of your car. In 2024, it will be "24" and "74", depending on which half of the year you registered your vehicle, and so on for the following years. 

How do plate changes affect my car finance?

Number plate changes don't have a significant impact on your car finance. However, ensure that you inform your lender and insurance provider about any changes on the number plate. If you're thinking about changing the number plate on a car that still has outstanding finance, you can actually do so as long as your lender approves it.

If you apply for HP finance, you get to use the car while making payments on it, and you'll be the legal owner after you've made all payments, so you can keep your preferred number plate as you like. For a PCP contract, you may do the same if you want to pay the balloon payment to own the car. But if you'd rather return the car or trade it for a new one, you may transfer your number plate to the next car you choose. 

New Number Plate, New Car

Planning to get a new car to go with your personalised number plate? Sounds exciting! Buying a car is a major decision, and we're here to help you make the journey less nerve-wracking. More tips on buying a car on a budget? We've got you covered! How about a tool to help you calculate your car finance budget? Easy-peasy with Carmoola. 🚗🏁