Vehicle registration plates of the United Kingdom
Vehicle registration plates are the mandatory alphanumeric plates used to display the registration mark of a vehicle, and have existed in the United Kingdom since 1903. It is compulsory for motor vehicles used on public roads to display vehicle registration plates, with the exception of vehicles of the reigning monarch used on official business.
The Motor Car Act 1903, which came into force on 1 January 1904, required all motor vehicles to be entered on an official vehicle register, and to carry alphanumeric plates. The Act was passed in order that vehicles could be easily traced in the event of an accident or contravention of the law. Vehicle registration alphanumeric plates in the UK are rectangular or square in shape, with the exact permitted dimensions of the plate and its lettering set down in law. Front plates are white, whereas back plates are yellow.
Within the UK itself there are two systems: one for Great Britain, which dates from 2001, and another for Northern Ireland, which is similar to the original 1904 system. Both systems are administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea; until July 2014, Northern Ireland's system was administered by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Coleraine, which had the same status as the DVLA. Other schemes relating to the UK are also listed below.
- 1 Standard requirements
- 2 Great Britain
- 2.1 Current system
- 2.2 History
- 3 Northern Ireland
- 4 Most expensive plates
- 5 Other formats
- 6 Fraudulent use of number plates
- 7 Registration plate suppliers
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Number plates must be displayed in accordance with the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001.
All vehicles manufactured after 1 January 1973 must display number plates of reflex-reflecting material, white at the front and yellow at the rear, with black characters. This type of reflecting plate was permitted as an option from 1968: many vehicles first registered before 1973 may therefore carry the white/yellow reflective plates and, where they were first registered during or after 1968, they may have carried such plates since new. Many buses delivered to London Transport between 1973 and the mid-1980s continued to bear white-on-black plates.
In addition, characters on number plates purchased from 1 September 2001 must use a mandatory typeface and conform to set specifications as to width, height, stroke, spacing and margins. The physical characteristics of the number plates are set out in British Standard BS AU 145d, which specifies visibility, strength, and reflectivity.
Number plates with smaller characters are only permitted on imported vehicles, and then only if they do not have European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval and their construction/design cannot accommodate standard size number plates.
The industry standard size front number plate is 520 mm × 111 mm (20½" × 4⅜"). Rear plates are either the same size, or 285 mm × 203 mm (approx 11"x8") or 533 mm × 152 mm (approx 21"x6"). There is no specified legal size for a number plate. For example, the rear number plate of a Rover 75 is 635 mm x 175 mm.
The material of UK number plates must either comply with British Standard BS AU 145d, which states BSI number plates must be marked on the plate with the BSI logo and the name and postcode of the manufacturer and the supplier of the plates or
"(b) any other relevant standard or specification recognised for use in an EEA State and which, when in use, offers a performance equivalent to that offered by a plate complying with the British Standard specification, and which, in either case, is marked with the number (or such other information as is necessary to permit identification) of that standard or specification."
Older British plates had white, grey or silver characters on a black background. This style of plate was phased out in 1972 and, until 2012, legal to be carried only on vehicles first registered before 1 January 1973. A vehicle which was first registered on or after 1 January 1973 shall be treated as if it was first registered before that date if it was constructed before 1 January 1973. However, the Finance Bill 2014 and subsequent Finance Acts extended the Historic Vehicle class cut-off year from 1973 to 1974 and subsequently, a rolling forty years. This had the effect of linking eligibility to display old-style plates with 'Tax Exempt' vehicle status. It follows that the older style plates are now available for any vehicle constructed 40 or more years ago, provided that an application has been made to the DVLA to have the vehicle included in the historic vehicle class; it is so registered and is nil-rated for Vehicle Excise Duty.
Motorcycles formerly had to display a front plate, which was usually but not always a double-sided plate on top of the front mudguard, curved to follow the contour of the wheel and visible from the sides. The requirement for the front number plate was dropped in 1975 because of the severe danger these presented to pedestrians in the event of a collision; this risk had prompted the slang term "pedestrian slicer" for the plates. Motorcycles registered after 1 September 2001 may only display a rear number plate, while motorcycles registered before that date can display a number plate at the front if desired.
The current system for Great Britain was introduced on 1 September 2001. Each registration index consists of seven characters with a defined format. From left to right, the characters consist of:
- A local memory tag or area code, consisting of two letters which together indicate the local registration office. As of December 2013 all local offices have been closed, but the letters still represent a region. The letters I, Q and Z are not used as local office identifiers; Z can be used only as a random letter.
- The first of these two letters is a mnemonic standing for the name of the broad area where the registration office is located. This is intended to make the registration more memorable than an arbitrary code. For example, A is used as the first character in all registrations issued by the three offices located in the vicinity of East Anglia;
- A two-digit age identifier, which changes twice a year, in March and September. The code is either the last two digits of the year itself if issued between March and August (e.g. "10" for registrations issued between 1 March and 31 August 2010), or else has 50 added to that value if issued between September and February the following year (e.g. "60" for registrations issued between 1 September 2010 and 28 February 2011);
- A three-letter sequence which uniquely distinguishes each of the vehicles displaying the same initial four-character area and age sequence. The letters I and Q are excluded from the three-letter sequence, as are combinations that may appear offensive (including those in foreign languages). Due to batch allocation of new registration marks to dealers, it is common for cars with "neighbouring" letter sequences to be of the same manufacturer.
This scheme has three particular advantages:
- A buyer of a second-hand vehicle can in theory determine the year of first registration of the vehicle without having to look it up. However, a vehicle is permitted to display a number plate where the age identifier is older (but not newer) than the vehicle. The wide awareness of how the "age identifier" works has led to it being used in advertising by used car showrooms instead of simply stating a year.
- In the case of a police investigation of an accident or vehicle-related crime, witnesses usually remember the initial area code letters — it is then quite simple to narrow down suspect vehicles to a much smaller number by checking the authority's database without having to know the full number.
- The scheme should have sufficient numbers to run until 28 February 2051.
|First letter||Official local mnemonic||DVLA Office||Second letter (DVLA Office identifier)|
|A||Anglia||Peterborough||A B C D E F G H J K L M N|
|Norwich||O P R S T U|
|Ipswich||V W X Y|
|C||Cymru (Wales)||Cardiff||A B C D E F G H J K L M N O|
|Swansea||P R S T U V|
|Bangor||W X Y|
|D||Deeside||Chester||A B C D E F G H J K|
|Shrewsbury||L M N O P R S T U V W X Y|
|F||Forest and Fens||Nottingham||A B C D E F G H J K L M N P|
|Lincoln||R S T V W X Y|
|G||Garden of England||Maidstone||A B C D E F G H J K L M N O|
|Brighton||P R S T U V W X Y|
|H||Hampshire and Dorset||Bournemouth||A B C D E F G H J|
|Portsmouth||K L M N O P R S T U V X Y|
|Isle of Wight (issued in Portsmouth)||W|
|K||Usually Kettering but there is no official mnemonic[b]||Borehamwood (formerly Luton)[c]||A B C D E F G H J K L|
|Northampton||M N O P R S T U V W X Y|
|L||London||Wimbledon||A B C D E F G H J|
|Borehamwood (formerly Stanmore)||K L M N O P R S T|
|Sidcup||U V W X Y|
|M||Manchester and Merseyside||Manchester||A–Y|
|Note: MN reserved for Isle of Man|
|N||North||Newcastle||A B C D E G H J K L M N O (NF is not issued)|
|Stockton||P R S T U V W X Y|
|P||Preston||Preston||A B C D E F G H J K L M N O P R S T|
|Carlisle||U V W X Y|
|S||Scotland[a]||Glasgow||A B C D E F G H J|
|Edinburgh||K L M N O|
|Dundee||P R S T|
|Aberdeen||U V W|
|W||West of England||Exeter||A B C D E F G H J|
|Bristol||M N O P R S T U V W X Y|
||A B C D E F|
|Y||Yorkshire||Leeds[d]||A B C D E F G H J K|
|Sheffield[d][e]||L M N O P R S T U|
|Beverley[e]||V W X Y|
bThere is no official name ascribed to the letter K by the DVLA, although reference may be made to the 'K' in Milton Keynes – the new town that is located between the two 'K' DVLA offices.
cLuton DVLA office until 8 February 2010 when it closed and had all operations moved to Borehamwood.
In addition to the above local memory tags, personalised registrations are also offered with arbitrary "local memory tags" prefixes, except for the letters I, Q, and Z.
cLast year identifier from previous system
European Union symbol
Some UK number plates conform to the 1998 European standard design, with black lettering on a white or yellow background. The standard design also incorporates a blue strip on the left side of the plate with the European Union symbol and the country identification code of the member state – this aspect of the design is not compulsory in the UK. This is because of the way in which the Council Regulation implementing the EU Symbol (Reg No. 2411/98) is drafted. It only requires states that have ratified the Vienna Convention of 1968 on road traffic to enforce the EU symbol. This can be seen in Article 3, which reads:
Member States requiring vehicles registered in another Member State to display a distinguishing registration sign when they are being driven on their territory shall recognise the distinguishing [EU Symbol] sign
The 'requirement' talked about here – "to display a distinguishing registration sign" – is derived directly from Article 37 of the 1968 Vienna Convention (this is actually stated in preamble (3) of Reg 2411/98). So in order for Regulation 2411/98 to apply, the state must have ratified the 1968 Convention. Since the UK has not ratified it, Reg 2411/98 technically does not apply and therefore the EU symbol is not a mandatory requirement there.
The UK did, however, ratify the predecessor to the 1968 Treaty: The Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Technically, the country identifier design is not compliant with the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (Annex 4) which requires the classic white oval design to be displayed. For many countries the Geneva Convention has been superseded by the later Vienna Convention on Road Traffic; EU states that have ratified the latter must therefore comply with Council Regulation 2411/98, which necessitates the use of the EU symbol.
National emblems within Great Britain
Owners of vehicles registered in Great Britain which are not already displaying the EU format "GB" plate may choose to display plates with one of the national emblems below plus lettering. Either the full wording or the abbreviation is used.
UK – UNITED KINGDOM
WALES – Wales
Currently no other flags are allowed to be displayed on the plate. These regulations do not extend to Northern Ireland as there is no consensus on a national symbol.
Although these plates are permitted throughout the entire UK, they are not recognised in other countries, therefore a motorist who drives a vehicle abroad displaying these plates must also affix a "GB" sticker.
Examples of British registration plates with national emblems
The standard (79 mm height) typeface is set out in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001. An alternative (64 mm) font is provided for motorcycles (schedule 4 part 2, p. 24).
The standard font, unofficially known as Charles Wright 2001, is a subtly redrawn version of Charles Wright's original 1935 font. The width of the previous font was condensed from 57 mm to 50 mm to allow space for the extra letter and the optional blue EU strip. The letter O and the digit 0 are intentionally identical, as are the letter I and digit 1. But the typeface accentuates the differences between characters such as 8 and B, or D and 0, with slab serifs to improve the legibility of a plate from a distance. This is especially useful for the automatic number plate recognition software of speed cameras and CCTV. This accentuation also discourages the tampering that is sometimes practised with the use of black insulating tape or paint to change letter forms (such as P to R, or 9 to 8), or with the inclusion of carefully positioned black "fixing screw" dots that alter the appearance of letters on some vanity plates.
The design has similarities with the FE-Schrift number-plate font which was introduced in Germany in 1994 and which has been mandatory there since 2000. However, the UK design remains more conventional in its character shapes.
For the 07 registration period a higher than usual number of Scottish 07 codes were retained as Select registrations for sale and an additional allocation of Tx letter pairs were released for use by the local offices in Scotland with the same allocation as the Sx letter pairs (for example Edinburgh with SK to SN allocated had TK to TN added)[a].
In 2007 the Edinburgh DVLA office exceptionally issued
TN07 prefixed registrations for some vehicles, instead of the expected '
SN07'. This was stated to be because of potential offence caused by interpreting
SN07 as 'snot'. This is the first known use of the 'T' code as the first letter, as it was not allocated to a region in the 2001 system. Also,
TJ07 registrations have been issued in Glasgow, most probably because the
SJ07 allocations were exhausted. Similarly, along with
TK07 has also been issued by Edinburgh, probably for the same oversubscription reason as in Glasgow. It has also been observed that the
TP07 mark has also been issued.
Vehicles registered under previous numbering systems continue to retain their original number plates but the area identifier in the previous number system is not the same area as the post 2001 area identifier, eg AA pre 2001 is Bournemouth whereas AA post 2001 is Peterborough. Subject to certain conditions, number plates can be transferred between vehicles by the vehicle owner; some of these transfers involve tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds changing hands, because of the desirability of a specific letter/number combination.
The first series of number plates was issued in 1903 and ran until 1932, consisting of a one- or two-letter code followed by a sequence number from 1 to 9999. The code indicated the local authority in whose area the vehicle was registered. In England and Wales, these were initially allocated in order of population size (by the 1901 census) – thus
A indicated London,
B indicated Lancashire,
C indicated the West Riding of Yorkshire and so on up to
Y indicating Somerset, then
AA indicated Hampshire,
AB indicated Worcestershire and so on up to
FP indicating Rutland.
The letters G, S and V were initially restricted to Scotland, and the letters I and Z to Ireland. In both cases, allocations of codes were made in alphabetical order of counties, followed by county boroughs – thus in Scotland, Aberdeenshire was allocated
SA, Argyll received
SB and so on, while in Ireland Antrim was allocated
IA, Armagh received
IB, and so on.
When a licensing authority reached 9999, it was allocated another two-letter code, but there was no pattern to these subsequent allocations as they were allocated on a first come first served basis. London and Middlesex quickly took most codes with L and M as the first letter respectively, while Surrey, initially allocated
P, took many codes beginning with that letter.
A zero has been issued by several issuing authorities for the official car of the council head, in cases where plate number "1" had already been issued by the time the councils decided to give priority to its first citizen. Example include the Lord Mayor of London (
LM 0) and the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh (
S 0), of Glasgow (
G 0) and of Aberdeen (
1932 to 1963
By 1932, the available codes were running out, and an extended scheme was introduced. This scheme placed a serial letter before the code, and had the sequence number run only to 999, thus restricting the number of characters in a registration to six. The first area to issue such marks was Staffordshire in July 1932 with
ARF 1 etc., and all other areas in England and Wales, plus most areas in Scotland, followed suit once they had issued all their two-letter registrations.
I, Q, and Z were not used as serial letters, as the use of I and Z continued to be restricted to Ireland and Q was reserved for temporary imports, while the single-letter codes were left out of this scheme as a serial letter would have created a duplicate of an existing two-letter code. (The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland later adopted this scheme in their own ways, and the latter still uses it.)
In some areas, the available marks within this scheme started to run out in the 1950s, and in those areas, what became known as "reversed" registrations – the letters coming after the numbers – were introduced. Staffordshire was again the first area to issue such registrations, starting with
1000 E in 1953. In most cases, the three-letter combinations (e.g.
1 AHX for Middlesex) would be issued first, while in later years some areas started with the one- and two-letter combinations and others issued all three at the same time. The ever-increasing popularity of the car meant that by the beginning of the 1960s, these registrations were also running out.
Some three-letter combinations were not authorised for licensing use as they were deemed offensive. These included
DUW was issued in London for several months in 1934 before it was realised it was the Welsh for "god", and withdrawn. Even then, there were some registrations which would now be called cherished plates. One was RAD10 (BBC) and another was IND1A (Indian Embassy).
1963 to 1982
In August 1962, an attempt was made to create a national scheme to alleviate the problem of registrations running out. This used the scheme introduced in 1932, of a three-letter combination followed by a sequence number from 1 to 999, but also added a letter suffix, which initially changed on 1 January each year. An "A" suffix was thus used for 1963, "B" for 1964, etc. Middlesex was the first authority to adopt this scheme when it issued
AHX 1A in February 1963. Most other areas followed suit during 1964, but some chose to stick to their own schemes up until 1 January 1965, when the letter suffix was made compulsory.
As well as yielding many more available numbers, it was a handy way for vehicle buyers to know the age of the vehicle immediately. However, the year letter changing on 1 January each year meant that car retailers soon started to notice that buyers would tend to wait until the New Year for the new letter to be issued, so that they could get a "newer" car. This led to major peaks and troughs in sales over the year, and to help flatten this out somewhat the industry lobbied to get the scheme changed, so that the change of year letter occurred on 1 August rather than 1 January. This was done in 1967, when "E" suffixes ran only from 1 January to 31 July, before "F" suffixes commenced on 1 August.
In October 1974, responsibility for issuing registrations was transferred from local and regional authorities to specialist Local Vehicle Licensing Offices (LVLOs) or Vehicle Registration Offices (VROs) run by the DVLA. Most of the two-letter area codes allocated during the first scheme continued in their respective areas, albeit now indicating the nearest LVLO/VRO rather than the local or regional authority. However, the decision to streamline the allocations of these codes meant that some were transferred to new areas. For instance, the former Suffolk code
CF was transferred to Reading, while the former Edinburgh code
WS was re-allocated to Bristol.
1983 to 2001
By 1982, the year suffixes had reached Y and so from 1983 onwards the sequence was reversed again, so that the year letter — starting again at "A" — preceded the numbers then the letters of the registration. The available range was then
A21 AAA to
Y999 YYY, the numbers 1–20 being held back for the government's proposed, and later implemented, DVLA select registration sales scheme. Towards the mid-1990s there was some discussion about introducing a unified scheme for Europe, which would also incorporate the country code of origin of the vehicle, but after much debate such a scheme was not adopted because of lack of countries willing to participate.
The changes in 1983 also brought the letter Q into use – although on a very small and limited scale. It was used on vehicles of indeterminate age, such as those assembled from kits, substantial rebuilds, or imported vehicles where the documentation is insufficient to determine the age. There was a marked increase in the use of Q registrations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, fuelled by car crime. Many stolen vehicles had false identities given to them, and when this was discovered and the original identity could not be determined, a Q registration would be issued to such vehicle. It was seen as an aid to consumer protection. Due to indeterminate age, origin and specification of Q registration vehicles, most motor insurers are reluctant to offer cover for these 'Q-plate' vehicles.
By the late 1990s, the range of available numbers was once again starting to run out, exacerbated by a move to biannual changes in registration letters (March and September) in 1999 to smooth out the bulge in registrations every August, so a new scheme needed to be adopted. It was decided to research a system that would be easier for crash or vehicle related crime witnesses to remember and clearer to read, yet still fit within a normal standard plate size.
In order to avoid any confusion, the letters I, O, U and Z have never been issued as year identifiers: I because of its similarity to the numeral 1; O because of its identical appearance to a zero; U because of similarity to the letter V; and Z because of similarity to the numeral 2.
|Suffix letter series 1963–83||Prefix letter series 1983–2001|
Normally the last two letters would indicate where the car was initially registered. The letters I and Z are reserved for Ireland. If you want to look for the office code (or council code until 1974) easier, look at the bold letters next to the examples (ABC 123D; A123 BCD).
For the list of Northern Ireland codes, see the Northern Ireland section of this article. For a full list of Irish codes, see Vehicle registration plates of the Republic of Ireland.
|First letter||Code||County or city||Code||County or city||Code||County or city|
|A||A||London||AA||Bournemouth (Salisbury until 1980)||AB||Worcester|
|AF||Truro||AG||Hull (Ayrshire until 1974)||AH||Norwich|
|AJ||Middlesbrough (Yorkshire (North Riding) until 1974)||AK||Sheffield (Bradford until 1974)||AL||Nottingham|
|AM||Swindon||AN||West Ham (changed to London from 1967) then again to Reading in 1974. (MAN used only in Isle of Man)||AO||Carlisle|
|AP||Brighton||AR||Chelmsford (Hertfordshire until 1974)||AS||Inverness|
|AT||Hull||AU||Nottingham||AV||Peterborough (Aberdeenshire until 1974)|
|AW||Shrewsbury||AX||Cardiff (Monmouthshire until 1974)||AY||Leicester|
|B||B||Lancashire||BA||Manchester (Salford until 1974)||BB||Newcastle upon Tyne|
|BC||Leicester||BD||Northampton||BE||Lincoln (Grimsby until 1981)|
|BF||Stoke-on-Trent||BG||Liverpool (Birkenhead until 1974)||BH||Luton (Buckinghamshire until 1974)|
|BJ||Ipswich (East Suffolk until 1974)||BK||Portsmouth||BL||Reading|
|BM||Luton||BN||Manchester (Bolton until 1981)||BO||Cardiff|
|BP||Portsmouth||BR||Newcastle upon Tyne (Durham until 1981)||BS||Aberdeen (Orkney until 1980)|
|BT||Leeds (Yorkshire (East Riding) until 1974; York until 1981)||BU||Manchester (Oldham until 1974)||BV||Preston (Blackburn until 1974)|
|BW||Oxford||BX||Haverfordwest (Carmarthenshire until 1974)||BY||Croydon (changed to London (North-West) on closure from 1967)|
|C||C||Yorkshire (West Riding)||CA||Chester (Denbighshire until 1974)||CB||Manchester (Blackburn until 1974; Bolton until 1981)|
|CC||Bangor||CD||Brighton||CE||Peterborough (Cambridge until 1981)|
|CF||Reading (West Suffolk until 1974)||CG||Bournemouth (Salisbury until 1980)||CH||Nottingham (Derby until 1974)|
|CJ||Gloucester (Hereford until 1981)||CK||Preston||CL||Norwich|
|CM||Liverpool (Birkenhead until 1974)||CN||Newcastle upon Tyne (Gateshead until 1974)||CO||Exeter (Plymouth until 1980)|
|CP||Huddersfield (Halifax until 1974)||CR||Southampton||CS||Glasgow (Ayr until 1981)|
|CT||Lincoln (Boston until 1981)||CU||Newcastle upon Tyne (South Shields until 1974)||CV||Truro|
|CW||Preston (Burnley until 1974)||CX||Huddersfield||CY||Swansea (SCY used for Isles of Scilly)|
|D||D||Kent||DA||Birmingham (Wolverhampton until 1974)||DB||Manchester (Stockport until 1974)|
|DF||Gloucester||DG||Gloucester||DH||Dudley (Walsall until 1974)|
|DJ||Liverpool (St Helens until 1974; Warrington until 1981)||DK||Manchester (Rochdale until 1974; Bolton until 1981)||DL||Isle of Wight|
|DM||Chester (Flintshire until 1974)||DN||Leeds (York until 1981)||DO||Lincoln (Boston until 1981)|
|DP||Reading||DR||Exeter (Plymouth until 1980)||DS||Glasgow (Peeblesshire until 1974)|
|DT||Sheffield (Doncaster until 1974)||DU||Coventry||DV||Exeter|
|DW||Cardiff (Newport until 1974)||DX||Ipswich||DY||Brighton (Hastings until 1980)|
|E||E||Staffordshire||EA||Dudley (West Bromwich until 1974)||EB||Peterborough (Cambridge until 1981)|
|EC||Preston (Westmorland until 1974; Kendal until 1981)||ED||Liverpool (Warrington until 1981)||EE||Lincoln (Grimsby until 1981)|
|EF||Middlesbrough (West Hartlepool until 1974)||EG||Peterborough||EH||Stoke-on-Trent|
|EJ||Haverfordwest (Cardiganshire until 1974; Aberystwyth until 1981)||EK||Liverpool (Wigan until 1974; Warrington until 1981)||EL||Bournemouth|
|EM||Liverpool (Bootle until 1974)||EN||Manchester (Bury until 1974; Bolton until 1981)||EO||Preston (Barrow-in-Furness until 1981)|
|EP||Swansea (Montgomeryshire until 1974)||ER||Peterborough (Cambridge until 1981)||ES||Dundee (Perthshire until 1974)|
|ET||Sheffield (Rotherham until 1974)||EU||Bristol (Breconshire until 1974)||EV||Chelmsford|
|EW||Peterborough||EX||Norwich (Great Yarmouth until 1974)||EY||Bangor (Anglesey until 1974)|
|F||F||Essex||FA||Stoke-on-Trent (Burton-upon-Trent until 1974)||FB||Bristol (Bath until 1974)|
|FF||Bangor (Merionethshire until 1974; Aberystwyth until 1981)||FG||Brighton (Fife until 1974)||FH||Gloucester|
|FJ||Exeter||FK||Dudley (Worcester until 1974)||FL||Peterborough|
|FM||Chester||FN||Maidstone (Canterbury until 1981)||FO||Gloucester (Radnorshire until 1974; Hereford for Radnorshire until 1981)|
|FP||Leicester (Rutland until 1974)||FR||Preston (Blackpool until 1974)||FS||Edinburgh|
|FT||Newcastle upon Tyne (Tynemouth until 1974)||FU||Lincoln (Grimsby until 1981)||FV||Preston (Blackpool until 1974)|
|FW||Lincoln||FX||Bournemouth||FY||Liverpool (Southport until 1974)|
|GF||London (South-West)||GG||Glasgow||GH||London (South-West)|
|GJ||London (South-West)||GK||London (South-West)||GL||Truro (Bath until 1974)|
|GM||Reading (Motherwell and Wishaw until 1974)||GN||London (South-West)||GO||London (South-West)|
|GP||London (South-West)||GR||Newcastle upon Tyne (Durham until 1981)||GS||Luton (Perthshire until 1974)|
|GT||London (South-West)||GU||London (South-East)||GV||Ipswich (West Suffolk until 1974)|
|GW||London (South-East)||GX||London (South-East)||GY||London (South-East)|
|H||H||London||HA||Dudley (Smethwick until 1974)||HB||Cardiff (Merthyr Tydfil until 1974)|
|HC||Brighton (Eastbourne until 1974; Hastings until 1980)||HD||Huddersfield (Dewsbury until 1974)||HE||Sheffield (Barnsley until 1974)|
|HF||Liverpool (Wallasey until 1974)||HG||Preston (Burnley until 1974)||HH||Carlisle|
|HJ||Chelmsford (Southend-on-Sea until 1974)||HK||Chelmsford||HL||Sheffield (Wakefield until 1974)|
|HM||East Ham ( changed to London (Cent) from 1967)||HN||Middlesbrough (Darlington until 1974)||HO||Bournemouth (Salisbury until 1980)|
|HP||Coventry||HR||Swindon||HS||Glasgow (Renfrewshire until 1974)|
|HT||Bristol||HU||Bristol||HV||East Ham (Changed to London (Cent) from 1967|
|HW||Bristol||HX||London (Central) (Middlesex before 1965)||HY||Bristol|
|J||J||Durham||JA||Manchester (Stockport until 1974)||JB||Reading|
|JC||Bangor||JD||West Ham (Changed to London (Cent) from 1967||JE||Peterborough (Cambridge until 1981)|
|JF||Leicester||JG||Maidstone (Canterbury until 1981)||JH||Reading (Hertfordshire until 1974)|
|JJ||Maidstone (London until 1974; Canterbury until 1981)||JK||Brighton (Eastbourne until 1974; Hastings until 1980)||JL||Lincoln (Boston until 1981)|
|JM||Reading (Westmorland until 1974)||JN||Chelmsford (Southend-on-Sea until 1974)||JO||Oxford|
|JP||Liverpool (Wigan until 1974; Warrington until 1981)||JR||Newcastle upon Tyne||JS||Inverness|
|JT||Bournemouth||JU||Leicester||JV||Lincoln (Grimsby until 1981)|
|JW||Birmingham (Wolverhampton until 1974)||JX||Huddersfield (Halifax until 1974)||JY||Exeter (Plymouth until 1980)|
|KP||Maidstone||KR||Maidstone||KS||Edinburgh (Roxburghshire until 1947 Selkirk until 1980)|
|KT||Maidstone (Canterbury until 1981)||KU||Sheffield (Bradford until 1974)||KV||Coventry|
|KW||Sheffield (Bradford until 1974)||KX||Luton (Buckinghamshire until 1974)||KY||Sheffield (Bradford until 1974)|
|L||L||Glamorganshire||LA||London (North-West) (used for London County Council before 1965)||LB||London (North-West)|
|LC||London (North-West)||LD||London (North-West)||LE||London (North-West)|
|LF||London (North-West)||LG||Chester||LH||London (North-West)|
|LJ||Bournemouth||LK||London (North-West)||LL||London (North-West)|
|LM||London (North-West)||LN||London (North-West)||LO||London (North-West)|
|LP||London (North-West)||LR||London (North-West)||LS||Edinburgh (Stirling until 1981)|
|LT||London (North-West)||LU||London (North-West)||LV||Liverpool|
|LW||London (North-West)||LX||London (North-West)||LY||London (North-West)|
|MC||London (North-East) ( Middlesex before 1965)||MD||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||ME||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)|
|MF||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MG||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MH||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)|
|MJ||Luton||MK||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||ML||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)|
|MM||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MN||Isle of Man||MO||Reading|
|MP||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MR||Swindon||MS||Edinburgh (Stirling until 1981)|
|MT||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MU||London (North-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MV||London (South-East) (Middlesex before 1965)|
|MW||Swindon||MX||London (South-East) (Middlesex before 1965)||MY||London (South-East) (Middlesex before 1965)|
|NJ||Brighton||NK||Luton (Hertfordshire until 1974)||NL||Newcastle upon Tyne|
|NP||Worcester||NR||Leicester||NS||Glasgow (Sutherland until 1974)|
|OP||Birmingham||OR||Portsmouth||OS||Glasgow (Wigtownshire until 1974; Stranraer until 1981)|
|OT||Portsmouth||OU||Bristol (Hampshire until 1974)||OV||Birmingham|
|OW||Southampton||OX||Birmingham||OY||Croydon (changed to London (NW) from 1967)|
|PM||Guildford||PN||Brighton||PO||Portsmouth (GPO formerly used for General Post Office vehicles)|
|PP||Luton (Buckinghamshire until 1974)||PR||Bournemouth||PS||Aberdeen (Lerwick until 1980)|
|PT||Newcastle upon Tyne (Durham until 1981)||PU||Chelmsford||PV||Ipswich|
|PW||Norwich||PX||Portsmouth||PY||Middlesbrough (Yorkshire (North Riding) until 1974)|
|RC||Nottingham (Derby until 1974)||RD||Reading||RE||Stoke-on-Trent|
|RF||Stoke-on-Trent||RG||Newcastle upon Tyne (Aberdeen until 1974)||RH||Hull|
|RJ||Manchester (Salford until 1974)||RK||Croydon (changed to London (NW) from 1967||RL||Truro|
|RM||Carlisle||RN||Preston||RO||Luton (Hertfordshire until 1974)|
|RT||Ipswich (East Suffolk until 1974)||RU||Bournemouth||RV||Portsmouth|
|S||S||Edinburgh||SA||Aberdeen||SB||Argyll until 1974 then Oban until 1980, then Glasgow from 1981|
|SC||Edinburgh||SD||Glasgow (Ayr until 1981)||SE||Aberdeen (Keith until 1981)|
|SF||Edinburgh||SG||Edinburgh||SH||Edinburgh (Selkirk until 1980)|
|SJ||Glasgow (Bute until 1974 Ayr until 1981)||SK||Inverness||SL||Dundee (Clackmannanshire until 1974)|
|SM||Carlisle (Dumfries until 1981)||SN||Dundee (Dunbartonshire until 1974)||SO||Aberdeen|
|SP||(Fife until 1974)||SR||Dundee||SS||East Lothian (Haddingtonshire until 1921 Aberdeen until 1974)|
|ST||Inverness||SU||Glasgow (Kincardineshire until 1974)||SV||Kinross-shire (until 1974), subsequently unused|
|SW||Carlisle (Kirkcudbrightshire until 1974 Dumfries until 1981)||SX||Edinburgh||SY||Midlothian (until 1974), subsequently unused|
|T||T||Devon||TA||Exeter||TB||Liverpool (Lancashire until 1974; Warrington until 1981)|
|TC||Bristol (Lancashire until 1974)||TD||Manchester (Lancashire until 1974; Bolton until 1981)||TE||Manchester (Lancashire until 1974; Bolton until 1981)|
|TF||Reading (Lancashire until 1974)||TG||Cardiff||TH||Swansea|
|TJ||Liverpool (Lancashire until 1974)||TK||Exeter (Plymouth until 1980)||TL||Lincoln|
|TM||Luton||TN||Newcastle upon Tyne||TO||Nottingham|
|TW||Chelmsford||TX||Cardiff||TY||Newcastle upon Tyne|
|UJ||Shrewsbury||UK||Birmingham (Wolverhampton until 1974)||UL||London (Central)|
|UM||Leeds||UN||Denbighshire prior to 1974, Barnstable 1974–80, Exeter from 1981||UO||Exeter (Barnstaple until 1980)|
|UP||Newcastle upon Tyne (Durham until 1981)||UR||Luton (Hertfordshire until 1974)||US||Glasgow|
|UT||Leicester||UU||London (Central)||UV||London (Central)|
|V||V||Lanarkshire||VA||Peterborough (Lanarkshire until 1974; Cambridge until 1981)||VB||Croydon (changed to London from 1967 until 1974) then Canterbury then Maidstone from 1981|
|VC||Coventry||VD||Lanarkshire (until 1974), later Luton||VE||Peterborough (Cambridge until 1981)|
|VJ||Gloucester (Hereford until 1981)||VK||Newcastle upon Tyne||VL||Lincoln|
|VM||Manchester||VN||Middlesbrough (Yorkshire (North Riding) until 1974)||VO||Nottingham|
|VP||Birmingham||VR||Manchester||VS||Luton (Greenock until 1974)|
|VW||Chelmsford||VX||Chelmsford||VY||Leeds (York until 1981)|
|WF||Sheffield (Yorkshire (East Riding) until 1974)||WG||Sheffield (Stirlingshire until 1974)||WH||Manchester (Bolton until 1981)|
|WM||Liverpool (Southport until 1974)||WN||Swansea||WO||Cardiff (Monmouthshire until 1974)|
|WP||Worcester||WR||Leeds||WS||Bristol (Edinburgh until 1974)|
|WT||Leeds||WU||Leeds||WV||Brighton (Wiltshire until 1974)|
|X||X||Northumberland||XA||London. (Kirkaldy 1964–74 with year suffix)||XB||London (Coatbridge 1964–1974 with year suffix)|
|XC||London (Solihull 1964–1974 with year suffix)||XD||London (Luton 1964–1974 with year suffix)||XE||London (Luton 1964–1974 with year suffix)|
|XF||London (Torbay 1964–1974 with year suffix)||XG||Middlesbrough (until 1974), subsequently unused||XH||London|
|XJ||Manchester (until 1974), subsequently unused||XK||London||XL||London|
|XP||London, later temporary plates for vehicles being exported to Europe||XR||London||XS||Paisley (until 1974), subsequently unused|
|YF||London (Central)||YG||Leeds||YH||London (Central)|
|YJ||Brighton (Dundee until 1974)||YK||London (Central)||YL||London (Central)|
|YM||London (Central)||YN||London (Central)||YO||London (Central)|
|YP||London (Central)||YR||London (Central)||YS||Glasgow|
|YT||London (Central)||YU||London (Central)||YV||London (Central)|
|YW||London (Central)||YX||London (Central)||YY||London (Central)|
Northern Ireland continues to use the national system initiated for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1903, with two-letter county and city codes featuring the letters I or Z representing Ireland. The full list of codes appears below.
As in Great Britain, each code originally ran from 1 to 9999, and when one was completed, another was allocated. All possible codes had been allocated by 1957, following which reversed sequences were introduced, the first county to do so being Antrim in January 1958 with
These reversed sequences were completed quickly, leading to the introduction of the current "
AXX 1234" format in January 1966, where "
XX" is the county code and "
A" is a serial letter. This format allowed capacity to be increased. Each county adopted it once they had completed their reversed sequences, the last one to do so being County Londonderry in October 1973 with
From November 1985, the first 100 numbers of each series were withheld for use as cherished registrations. From April 1989, the numbers 101-999 were also withheld in this way. Even multiples of 1000 and 1111 ("four-of-a-kind") are deemed cherished by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland and thus withheld. Each series ends at 9998 and follows on to the next letter/number combination in the series.
While motorists with vehicles registered in Great Britain are permitted by the DVLA to use number plates carrying Euro-style bands with UK national flags and country codes, officially only the European Union symbol and the "GB" country code are specified in Northern Ireland. This is despite the fact that Northern Ireland, while part of the United Kingdom, is not part of Great Britain.
From 21 July 2014, vehicle registration in Northern Ireland became the responsibility of the DVLA in Swansea. The current format of Northern Ireland registration plates continues unchanged.
County codes in alphabetical order
|Code||County or City||Code||County or City||Code||County or City|
|IB||Armagh||OZ||Belfast||QNI||Cars with indeterminate age, kit cars.|
|IG||Fermanagh||PZ||Belfast||LTZ||Buses built in Northern Ireland for Transport for London|
Series per DVA licensing local office
For each DVA licensing local office, the two-letter sequences are shown first, followed by the reversed two-letter sequences, then the three-letter sequences.
The present series is highlighted in bold, and those already used are in italics.
Notes regarding a particular sequence are denoted using superscript numbers, and are given at the end of the series for the county concerned.
Ballymena DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) IA DZ KZ RZ
IA 9999(Dec 1903 – Mar 1932);
DZ 9999(Mar 1932 – Jan 1947);
KZ 9999(Jan 1947 – Feb 1954);
RZ 9999(Feb 1954 – Jan 1958).
9999 IA(Jan 1958 – Jun 1960);
9999 DZ(Jun 1960 – Sep 1962);
9999 KZ(Sep 1962 – Jun 1964);
9999 RZ(Jun 1964 – Jan 1966).
YIA 99981 (Jan 1966 – Jul 1985);
YDZ 99982 (Jul 1985 – May 1998);
YKZ 9998(May 1998 – May 2010);
YRZ 99983 (May 2010 – current).
- The current sequence
YRZ 9998began in May 2010. The current issue (as of October 2017) is
- When this is exhausted, it is likely the series will reverse, beginning with
- 1 Authority transferred from Antrim County Council to Ballymena LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was
7458due to computerisation in October 1986, followed by
ARZwas deemed inappropriate and will not be issued.
Armagh DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) IB LZ XZ
IB 9999(Dec 1903 – Aug 1947);
LZ 99994 (Jan 1947 – Nov 1957);
XZ 9999(Nov 1957 – Apr 1962).
9999 IB(Apr 1962 – Nov 1965);
9999 LZ(Nov 1965 – Mar 1969);
9999 XZ(Mar 1969 – Mar 1972).
YIB 99985, 6 (Mar 1972 – Nov 1996);
YLZ 9998(Nov 1996 – May 2010);
YXZ 9998(May 2010 – current).
- The current sequence
YXZ 9998began in May 2010. The current issue (as of September 2017) is
- When this is exhausted, it is likely the series will reverse, beginning with
- 4 Although
LZcommenced in January 1947,
IBwas not completed until August 1947.
- 5 Authority transferred from Armagh County Council to Armagh LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was
4400due to computerisation in 1986, followed by
Belfast DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) OI XI AZ CZ EZ FZ GZ MZ OZ PZ TZ UZ WZ
OI 9999(Jan 1904 – Jan 1921);
XI 9999(Jan 1921 – Feb 1928);
AZ 9999(Feb 1928 – Nov 1932);
CZ 9999(Nov 1932 – Oct 1935);
EZ 9999(Oct 1935 – Oct 1938);
FZ 9999(Oct 1938 – May 1942);
GZ 9999(May 1942 – Dec 1947);
MZ 9999(Dec 1947 – Jun 1950);
OZ 9999(Jun 1950 – Jan 1953);
PZ 9999(Jan 1953 – Aug 1954);
TZ 9999(Aug 1954 – Oct 1955);
UZ 9999(Oct 1955 – Mar 1957);
WZ 9999(Mar 1957 – Jun 1958).
9999 OI(Jun 1958 – Jun 1959);
9999 XI(Jun 1959 – Apr 1960);
9999 AZ(Apr 1960 – Mar 1961);
9999 CZ(Mar 1961 – Apr 1962);
9999 EZ(Apr 1962 – Apr 1963);
9999 FZ(Apr 1963 – Jan 1964);
9999 GZ(Jan 1964 – Sep 1964);
9999 MZ(Sep 1964 – May 1965);
9999 OZ(May 1965 – Mar 1966);
9999 PZ(Mar 1966 – Jan 1967);
9999 TZ(Jan 1967 – Oct 1967);
9999 UZ7 (Oct 1967 – Jun 1968);
9999 WZ(Jun 1968 – Apr 1969).
YOI 99998, 9 (Apr 1969 – Apr 1982);
YXI 9998(Apr 1982 – Feb 1993);
YAZ 999810 (Feb 1993 – May 1999);
YCZ 9998(May 1999 – late 2004);
YEZ 9998(late 2004 – Sep 2009);
YFZ 9998(Sep 2009 – Nov 2015);
YGZ 9998(Nov 2015 – current).
- The current sequence
YGZ 9998began in November 2015. The current issue (as of November 2017) is
- Since mid-2013, the
LTZseries has been used by Transport for London for its New Routemaster buses, which are built in Northern Ireland.
- 7 A batch of reverse
UZwas issued early in July 1967 for Belfast City Transport.
- 8 Authority transferred from Belfast City Council to Belfast LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was
OOIwere not allocated.
NAZwas deemed inappropriate and will never be issued.
Downpatrick DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) IJ BZ JZ SZ
IJ 999911 (Dec 1903 – Apr 1930);
BZ 9999(Apr 1930 – Oct 1946);
JZ 9999(Oct 1946 – Aug 1954);
SZ 9999(Aug 1954 – Oct 1958).
9999 IJ(Oct 1958 – May 1961);
9999 BZ(May 1961 – Nov 1963);
9999 JZ(Nov 1963 – Jul 1965);
9999 SZ(Jul 1965 – May 1967).
YIJ 999912, 13 (May 1967 – May 1987);
YBZ 9998(May 1987–2000);
YJZ 9998(2000 – Nov 2016);
YSZ 9998(Nov 2016 - current).
- The current sequence
YSZ 9998began in November 2016. The current issue (as of July 2017) is
- When this is exhausted, it is likely the series will reverse, beginning with
IJ 1-100were mixed allocations to all types of vehicles, but thereafter there was a period when motorcycles were segregated in blocks; the following were the motorcycle blocks:
IJ 101-150, 201-249, 301-350, 451-500, 551-600, 651-700, 751-800, 851-950, 1001-1100, 1151-1200and
1251up, (no information thereafter). Other vehicles took the remaining numbers, but
1000-1050were, in fact, duplicated.
- 12 Authority transferred from Down County Council to Downpatrick LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was in the early
3439due to computerisation in October 1986, followed by
Enniskillen DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) IL IG
IL 9999(Jan 1904 – Feb 1958);
9999 IL(Feb 1958 – Aug 1966);
YIL 999814, 15, 16 (Aug 1966 – Dec 2004);
YIG 999817 (Dec 2004 – current).
- The current sequence
YIG 9998began in December 2004. The current issue (as of November 2017) is
- When this is exhausted, it is likely the series will reverse, beginning with
- 14 Authority transferred from Fermanagh County Council to Enniskillen LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was in the late
2423due to computerisation in October 1986, followed by
KILwas deemed inappropriate and will never be issued.
PIGwere deemed inappropriate and will never be issued.
Coleraine DVA licensing office: (in original issuing sequence) IW NZ YZ
IW 9999(Dec 1903 – Jan 1949);
NZ 9999(Jan 1949 – Dec 1957);
YZ 9999(Dec 1957 – Sep 1962).
9999 IW(Sep 1962 – Oct 1966);
9999 NZ(Oct 1966 – Nov 1970);
9999 YZ(Nov 1970 – Oct 1973).
YIW 999818, 19 (Oct 1973–2001);
YNZ 9998(2001 – current).
- The current sequence
YNZ 9998began in 2001. The current issue (as of June 2017) is
- 18 Authority transferred from Londonderry County Council to Coleraine LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was in the early
HIWincomplete due to computerisation in October 1986 (highest normal issue unknown), followed by
Londonderry DVA licensing office: UI
UI 9999(Jan 1904 – Aug 1963).
9999 UI(Aug 1963 – Apr 1973).
YUI 999820, 21, 22 (Apr 1973 – current).
- The current sequence
YUI 9998began in April 1973. The current issue (as of September 2016) is
- When this is exhausted, it is likely the series will reverse, beginning with
- 20 Authority transferred from Londonderry County Borough Council to Londonderry LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was
7388due to computerisation in October 1986, followed by
FUIwas deemed inappropriate and will never be issued.
Omagh DVA licensing office (in original issuing sequence) JI HZ VZ
JI 9999(Dec 1903 – Feb 1944);
HZ 9999(Feb 1944 – Apr 1956);
VZ 9999(Apr 1956 – Apr 1961).
9999 JI(Apr 1961 – Oct 1964);
9999 HZ(Oct 1964 – Mar 1968);
9999 VZ(Mar 1968 – Jun 1971).
YJI 999823, 24 (Jun 1971–2000);
YHZ 9998(2000 – current).
- The current sequence
YHZ 9998began in 2000. The current issue (as of April 2017) is
- 23 Authority transferred from Tyrone County Council to Omagh LVLO/VRO from 1 January 1974; the first registration following the transfer was
4700due to computerisation in October 1986, followed by
Most expensive plates
As popularity grows, the prices reached for the most expensive plates are always increasing with many motorists attracted by the investment potential as well as vanity. In the UK sales of private plates via the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency broke through the £100million mark for the first time in 2016. Since 1989 the DVLA have made a total of £2billion from selling private plates. While many of the rich spend more money on their private plate than their personal vehicle, not all car owners are attracted to private plates. This has not affected number plates from appreciating thousands in value each year.
1 sold for £7.25million and is the highest price paid for a plate – in the United Arab Emirates. It was purchased by Abu Dhabi businessman Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri in 2008. As of 2014, the registration
25 O broke a new record of being the highest priced plate sold at a DVLA auction. Registration
25 O was purchased for £518,000 by Ferrari dealer John Collins in 2014; the plate now sits pride of place on a Ferrari 250 SWB once owned by rock star Eric Clapton. Registration
RAC3R have been considered as the most desirable plates amongst supercar and Formula One fanatics. The registration
RAC3R is a suffix style plate that was issued in the same year British racing driver James Hunt won the Formula One World Championship in 1976. The plate covers an endless list of all the different forms of racing, making it extremely desirable. Since there has been a big fuss over race related plates the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency has made a racer game for motorists to celebrate the huge profits made from the sales of private plates. The celebration took place at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2010. Unlike horse racing, Formula One racing has become more popular in the last few years, hence why the
F1 plate was always going to sell well. On 25 January 2008 the registration
F1 sold for £440,000 to Bradford Car design entrepreneur Afzal Kahn. The plate was previously owned and sold by Essex County Council and was sold to raise money for training young drivers. Today the
F1 plate has a valuation less than the winning bid with the price tag stagnating on that particular plate. Originally the plate was affixed in 1904 to the Panhard et Levassor of the then County Surveyor. Previously, a few months before the
F1 plate was purchased, the
S1 plate sold for £397,500 at an auction in September 2007 by an anonymous buyer making it the second most expensive number plate ever sold in the UK. The
S1 plate was originally owned by Sir John H A MacDonald, the Lord Kingsburgh and was Edinburgh's first ever number plate. Within the space of two years the
S1 plate sold for £65,500 more than the
M1 plate that sold at auction in Goodwood on 7 July 2006. Registrations
K1 NGS and
1O are also marked as considerably expensive plates that have sold publicly in excess of six figures.
Armed forces vehicles
In the Second World War, vehicles of the British Army had number plates such as
A12104 and those of the Royal Air Force
RAF 208343. Since 1949, British military vehicle registration numbers are mostly either in the form of two digits, two letters, two digits (e.g.
07 CE 08), or from 1995 onwards, two letters, two digits, two letters (for example,
JW 57 AB). Until the mid-1980s, the central two letters signified the armed service, or the branch or category of vehicle. For example, Chief of Fleet Support's staff car in 1983–85 was
00 RN 04, and First Sea Lord's car
00 RN 01 and Second Sea Lord's
00 RN 02, normal civilian plates replacing them when security required; and, in 1970, one of HMS Albion's Land Rovers was
25 RN 97 and HMS Bulwark's ship's minibus was
04 RN 84. Royal Air Force vehicles had numbers such as
55 AA 89, typically the first of the two letters being A, and the new-style RAF plates, such as
RZ 00 AA and
RU 86 AA on fire engines.
Military number plates are still often in the silver/white on black scheme used for civilian plates before 1973, and can be presented in one, two or three rows of characters.
From 1963 until around 1990, in West Germany, private vehicles owned by members of British Forces Germany and their families were issued registration numbers in a unique format (initially two letters followed by three digits plus a "B" suffix, e.g.
RH 249 B, then from the early 1980s three letters followed by two numbers plus the "B" suffix, e.g.
AQQ 89 B). This was discontinued for security reasons, as it made them vulnerable to Provisional IRA attacks. Private vehicles driven by British military personnel are now issued with either standard UK number plates (if right hand drive) or German ones (if left hand drive), although the vehicle is not actually registered with the DVLA.
|JW 57 AB|
|00 RN 04|
|RH 249 B|
|AQQ 89 B|
Trade licences are issued to motor traders and vehicle testers, and permit the use of untaxed vehicles on the public highway with certain restrictions. Associated with trade licences are "trade plates" which identify the holder of the trade licence rather than the vehicle they are displayed on, and can be attached temporarily to vehicles in their possession.
Until 1970, two types of trade plate were used. General trade plates had white letters and numbers on a red background and could be used for all purposes, while limited trade plates used red numbers and letters on a white background and were restricted in their use (e.g. a vehicle being driven under limited trade plates was not allowed to carry passengers). Since 1970, all trade plates have used the red-on-white format. According to the traders, the police followed a little rhyme about trade plates:
|“||Red-on-white, stop on sight
White-on-red, go ahead.
The format of trade plate numbers comprises three digits (with leading zeros if necessary) followed by one, two or three letters denoting the location of issue, using pre-2001 format codes.
In 2015, a new system was introduced with a number-only format. This is a five-digit number (leading zeroes used below 10000) in red on white, with a DVLA authentication at the right. This is centrally issued, and there is no regional indicator.
Since 1979 cars operated by foreign embassies, high commissions, consular staff, and various international organisations have been given plates with a distinguishing format of three numbers, one letter, three numbers. The letter is
D for diplomats or
X for accredited non-diplomatic staff. The first group of three numbers identifies the country or organisation to whom the plate has been issued, the second group of three numbers is a serial number, starting at 101 for diplomats (although some embassies were erroneously issued 100), 400 for non-diplomatic staff of international organisations, and 700 for consular staff. Thus, for example,
101 D 101 identifies the first plate allocated to the Afghan embassy, and
900 X 400 is the first plate allocated to the Commonwealth Secretariat.
|101 D 101||101 D 101|
|900 X 400||900 X 400|
A limited number of "personal" plates, bearing a similar format to earlier civilian registrations, are issued to embassies and high commissions for use of their ambassador or high commissioner. For example, the United States embassy is allowed to use the registration
USA 1 on one of its fleet of vehicles; Zimbabwe's high commissioner has
ZIM 1 – controversially a number plate originally issued in Galway, Republic of Ireland in 1970 – and South Korea's ambassador
ROK 1 – 'Republic of Korea'. The North Korean embassy, however, had to buy a vanity plate:
Cherished marks (personal, vanity or private number plates)
By default, a UK registration plate will accompany a vehicle throughout the vehicle's lifetime. There is no requirement to re-register a vehicle when moving to a new part of the country and no requirement that the number be changed when ownership of the vehicle changes. It is, however, possible for another registration number to be transferred, replacing the one originally issued, where owners wish to have a "vanity plate" (sometimes referred to as a "cherished" registration) displaying, for instance, their initials. Registration numbers may also be replaced simply to disguise the actual age of the vehicle.
According to information on the government DVLA website:
"Just remember you can make your vehicle look as old as you wish but you can not make it look newer than it is. For example you cannot put a Y registration number on a T registered vehicle but you could choose any prefix range from an A to a T. Each registration has an issue date which is what you must check to ensure you don't make your vehicle appear newer than it is." However, you are able to put 1955 registered private number plates on a 1949 registered vehicle as there is no year indicator to determine the age of release.
As many vehicles registered before 1963 have been scrapped, some of their "dateless" pre-1963 registration numbers have been transferred to other vehicles as personal plates. They can be valuable, and can also be used to conceal the age of an older vehicle. Many vintage and classic cars no longer bear their original index marks due to the owners being offered high premiums for the desirable registrations. In addition Northern Irish registrations are also regarded as "dateless" and are often transferred to vehicles outside Northern Ireland. Touring coaches often operate in other parts of the UK with registration numbers originally issued in Northern Ireland.
The DVLA's Personalised Registrations service also allows the purchase and transfer of registration numbers directly from the DVLA. Many private dealers act as agents for DVLA issues (and sell DVLA numbers for more than the DVLA asking price, which many buyers do not realise), and also hold their own private stock of dateless registrations and other cherished marks. The DVLA however can only offer for sale registrations that have never previously been issued and thus have a limited offering and limited scope.
State vehicles used by the reigning monarch
Motor cars used by the reigning monarch on official business, which are (as of 2017[update]) all Rolls-Royces or Bentleys built to special specifications, do not carry number plates. The monarch's private vehicles carry number plates.
Other registration plates
- Tax free export in 1970s had red borders around the plate.
- United Kingdom American Exchange plates had the prefix "UKAX".
- Some Republic of Ireland number plates have been registered in various motor tax offices in the UK. These plates dated from 1903-1986 and the UK practice of non-reregistration was discontinued in 1990. For example, VIP 1 was originally registered to a Jaguar in Co. Kilkenny (IP) Ireland in 1971 but is now registered on a Rolls Royce Corniche owned by Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. Some UK embassy vehicles have I or Z in their number plates e.g. CZE (Dublin) 1, PHI (Tipperary) 1, which have originated in the Irish system. Vehicles registered in Ireland under the new system (87 onwards) and which are exported to the UK must de-register their new Irish county (or in many cases, their Irish export ZZ 5 digit plate) with the DVLA who will issue them with a new UK number.
Fraudulent use of number plates
Criminals sometimes use copies of number plates legitimately used on a vehicle of identical type and colour to the one used, known as "cloning", to avoid being identified. A routine police computer check shows the plate matching the type of vehicle and does not appear suspicious.
The UK Government introduced on 1 August 2008 regulations requiring the production of personal identification and vehicle registration documents when having number plates made by a retailer. The organisation that makes the plate is required to display their name and postcode, usually in small print at bottom centre, to aid in tracing false plates and their purchaser. This requirement was introduced in 2001 when the new character style and two-digit year identifier came into force, and applies to all registration plates made after that date regardless of the year of the vehicle.
Registration plate suppliers
Number plates were initially made by the motor vehicle's original supplier, and replacement plates meeting standards could be made by anybody. Some people had street address numbers made up to motor-vehicle standards for their houses. From 2001 plates sold in England and Wales had to be provided by a supplier on the DVLA's Register of Number Plate Suppliers (RNPS) as specified in British Standard BSAU145d. The supplier needs to confirm that the customer is the registered keeper or other authorised person and verify their identity. The name and postcode of the supplier must be shown at the bottom of the plate. Number plates in the UK are usually flat and made of plastic; embossed aluminium plates are available from some suppliers. These rules are generally described as onerous, particularly to company car drivers who do not hold any of the required paperwork themselves (such items usually being stored by a fleet manager or lease hire company).
Registered number plate suppliers must keep records including the documents produced by their customers; they can be required to be shown to the police, although in reality this has seldom happened. The Department for Transport holds a full list of suppliers.
Some companies, particularly those based online, sell number plates described as "show plates" or "not for road use", which may not satisfy the requirements of BSAU145d. However, if so specified, these products can be identical to number plates sold by approved RNPS registered supplier. Many of these companies do not ask customers to prove ownership of the registration they are purchasing, and try to circumvent the law by placing disclaimers on their websites. Despite these disclaimers, it is still not legal to produce any registration plates without seeing proof of identity of the purchaser (such as a driving licence), and proof of their connection to the registration (such as a V5C or retention certificate).
- Vehicle registration plate
- Vehicle registration plates of the European Union
- Vehicle registration plates of the Isle of Man
- Vehicle registration plates of the Channel Islands
- Vehicle registration plates of British overseas territories
- Vehicle Excise Duty
- The Royal Household. "The Royal Household – Transport – Cars". Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- "London Transport Leyland Titan registered in 1979". Wikimedia Commons.
- DVLA (7 July 2012). "V796: Display of Registration Marks for Motor Vehicles". Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- "BS AU 145d:1998". British Standards Institution. 5 January 1998. ISBN 0-580-28985-0.
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