Types of Car Number Plates

What are the Different Types of Personal Number Plate Available?

You may not be aware of this, given the format and style of many private number plates you see on the road today, but there are, somewhat surprisingly, only FOUR different styles of private number plate legally available within the UK.

In this article, we’ll examine each type and explain a little about them, but first we’ll explain how the history of a number plate has played a key role in defining which plates are legal in the UK today, and which ones are not.

History of the Number Plate

The History of the Number Plate can be traced back to the passing of the Motor Car Act in 1903, which decreed that all motor vehicles should be officially registered and carry a plate which individually identified the vehicle. This law came into effect on January 1st 1904 with the plate “A 1” the first officially issued.

Since then, as the number of number plate options in each of theschemes used since 1904 has been exhausted, a new scheme was developed to replace it. It is these four different schemes (including the current style of number plate) that give us the basis for the different types of private number plates we see in the UK today.

The Four Styles of Private Number Plates

Dateless Number Plates (pre-1963)

Dateless personal number plates can be registered to be used on any car and they were used prior to February 1963. Typically dateless plates contain up to four numbers and three letters, though the arrangement of letters and numbers on the plate can be reversed. The maximum number of characters on a dateless plate is six.

An example of a dateless personal plate dating back to before February 1963 includes the likes of A 1, DOT 1, CAB 26, 999 COP and 1234 MP.

Suffix Number Plates (From Feb 1963 to July 1983)

In the 1950s and 60s, when the second hand car market was gaining popularity, it soon became apparent that not knowing a car’s true age was something of a hindrance to buyers and so the system was revamped. From Feb 1963, all new registrations were given an additional suffix, a single letter, which instantly signified the year the car was made.

For example, the number plate ABC 999 A showed that the car was registered between February 1963 and February 1964.

Nowadays, you can only buy suffix number plates direct from the DVLA.

Prefix Number Plates (From August 1983 to August 2001)

After 20 years, the amount of letters that could be used on a suffix number plate ran out and from August 1983, drivers were instead issued with a prefix plate, which simply moved the letter demarcating the year of production to the front of the registration number and the three letter code to the back.

So a car with the registration number ABC 123 A was registered in February 1963, but a car with the registration plate A 123 ABC was registered in August 1983.

Current Style of Plate (from September 2001 to February 2051)

From September 2001, when prefix plates were replaced with the current style, number plates now have two letters at the start, followed by two numbers and then three letters at the end.

What is different about the current style of plate is that it is the numbers, not the letters, which identify the age of a vehicle, and now that registrations would be issued at six-monthly intervals, a system was devised to facilitate that more easily.

So in 2014 to 2015 for example, cars registered from the 1st March to the 31st August 2014 will receive the number 14 on their plate, while those registered from 1st September 2014, to the 28th February 2015 will receive 64 on their number plate.

In terms of private plates, you can purchase any of the above styles to use legally on your vehicle, provided that the plate you purchase does not imply that the age of the vehicle is younger than it actually is.

So, for example, if you currently own a 59 (2009/10) plate vehicle, you cannot buy a registration from 2010/11, 2011/12. 2012/13, 2013/14 or any new registrations You can however legally purchase and use any older plates dated prior to when the vehicle was first registered in the UK.

Using a website like www.ThePlateGuy.co.uk is a sound move when investigating plates as they can use their expertise, attained through many years in the personal number plate industry to help you locate the ideal personalised number plate for you, at a budget you can afford.

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