History Of UK Car Registration System


“The Motor Car Act 1903” started everything off. It said that every car had to be registered with a county council or county borough council, and every car had to display a unique identifying number issued to them by such a council.

Initially each council was issued one letter to use on the number plates , they could not have known how popular the motor car was to become and as the number of cars increased they quickly ran out of combinations ,so they started to use two and then three letter combinations.
By 1963 several councils were close to the end of their allocation, so a 7th digit was added to the Number Plate System. This extra digit was a letter ,so post 1963 numbers had three letters then a space then up to 3 numbers and then another letter this last letter gave the age of the car.

Suffix Number Plate System

The Suffix Number Plate System

Table of “Age identifier ” Suffix Letters.

A 1 Jan 63 – 31 Dec 63 H 1 Aug 69 – 31 Jul 70 R 1 Aug 76 – 31 Jul 77

B 1 Jan 64 – 31 Dec 64 J 1 Aug 70 – 31 Jul 71 S 1 Aug 77 – 31 Jul 78

C 1 Jan 65 – 31 Dec 65 K 1 Aug 71 – 31 Jul 72 T 1 Aug 78 – 31 Jul 79

D 1 Jan 66 – 31 Dec 66 L 1 Aug 72 – 31 Jul 73 V 1 Aug 79 – 31 Jul 80

E 1 Jan 67 – 31 Jul 67 M 1 Aug 73 – 31 Jul 74 W 1 Aug 80 – 31 Jul 81

F 1 Aug 67 – 31 Jul 68 N 1 Aug 74 – 31 Jul 75 X 1 Aug 81 – 31 Jul 82

G 1 Aug 68 – 31 Jul 69 P 1 Aug 75 – 31 Jul 76 Y 1 Aug 82 – 31 Jul 83

You may notice that a further complication to the number system came in 1967 when , จองทะเบียนรถ under pressure from the motor car industry the changeover date was moved to August in an attempt to smooth out new car purchasing by the public.
It may also be noted that the letters I and Z ( used for N.Ireland) are missing as are Q ( reserved for kit cars and repaired write offs etc) and the letter U ( reason unknown).

The letters I Q Z O and U were never used as a suffix letter in fact I Q and Z were never used at all.
By 1983 they faced the same problem but deftly extended the system by reversing the number plate giving a letter first then up to 3 numbers then a space then 3 more letters. The first letter now gave the age of the car.
Prefix number plate system

The Prefix Number Plate System

Table of “Age identifier ” Prefix Letters.

A 1 Aug 83 – 31 Jul 84 H 1 Aug 90 – 31 Jul 91 R 1 Aug 97 – 31 Jul 98

B 1 Aug 84 – 31 Jul 85 J 1 Aug 91 – 31 Jul 92 S 1 Aug 98 – 28 Feb 99

C 1 Aug 85 – 31 Jul 86 K 1 Aug 92 – 31 Jul 93 T 1 Mar 99 – 31 Aug 99

D 1 Aug 86 – 31 Jul 87 L 1 Aug 93 – 31 Jul 94 V 1 Sep 99 – 29 Feb 00

E 1 Aug 87 – 31 Jul 88 M 1 Aug 94 – 31 Jul 95 W 1 Mar 00 – 31 Aug 00

F 1 Aug 88 – 31 Jul 89 N 1 Aug 95 – 31 Jul 96 X 1 Sep 00 – 28 Feb 01

G 1 Aug 89 – 31 Jul 90 P 1 Aug 96 – 31 Jul 97 Y 1 Mar 01 – 31 Aug 01

It may be noted that the letters I and Z ( used for N.Ireland) are missing as are Q ( reserved for kit cars and repaired write offs etc) and the letter U ( reason unknown).

By 2001 the problem was looming again and the current system was introduced. Now each number plate has 7 digits and the first two letters give the region of the country where the car was first registered, followed by two numbers which give the age of the car and then three random letters . An example of this could be NE51 XXX. The NE tells you the car is from the North East of England (a table of these region identifiers is below ). The 51 tells you it was registered in September 2001 and the last three letters mean nothing.
Current Number Plate system
Current U.K. Number Plates System
The first two digits of each car registration denote the area of the country where the vehicle was first registered.


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