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How To Read UK Number Plates

Why Do We Have Vehicle Registration Plates?

You may think a number plate is made of random letters and numbers, but that's not entirely true. There is in fact some logic to every car number plate. This blog will explain how to read a UK number plate and why each vehicle needs one. 

Since 1904 it’s been mandatory that all cars are entered into the official vehicle registry. All vehicles need to display a plate with a mixture of letters and numbers. This helps identify any vehicle should it be involved in a crash or any action against the law. 

Number plates are given to the car rather than the registered vehicle keeper and will stay with the vehicle until it’s destroyed, scrapped or permanently exported out of the country. However, the registered vehicle's keeper can transfer the reg to another vehicle or keep the plate (if personalised). 

How to read a number plate

Format of Registration Plates: Letters, Numbers and How to Read them.

The current format started in 2001 since they ran out of combinations in the old format with the current structure of UK number plates being two letters, two numbers followed by three letters. 

The two starting letters represent the DVLA memory tag where the car was registered. For example, KY is Northampton. Click the link here to find out where your car was registered. 

The two numbers that come after show the age of the car and which half of the year it was registered. The age identifier changes every six months, once on March 1st and the second time on September 1st. If we take 2021 as an example, from March 1st, the number on the plate would be 21. If it was after September 1st that the car had been registered, the number would be 71. Find out what year your car was registered by following the link here.

The final three numbers are random and make up the rest of the number plate. 

Watch the video to learn how to read UK number plates:


How to Display a Registration Plate Correctly.

You must abide by certain rules to correctly display your number plate. Altering or rearranging your number plate is illegal, and you can get up to a £1000 fine. 

Here are the rules which you must follow:

  • Do not display a reg plate that makes the car younger than it is

  • Fixing bolts must not be used to modify the numbers or letters

  • The front of the car must display a white and black number plate, and the rear must display a yellow and black number plate.

  • The spacing of the characters must match this format 'AU21 ERF'

  • Characters must not be removable or reflective 

  • The font used must be ‘Charles Wright 2001’ 

  • The background must be made of reflective material 

  • Number plates that are fitted after September 2021 must be marked with a British Standard number. This is ‘BS AU 145e’. 

3D and 4D number plates are legal as long as they conform with the rules. Zero emissions vehicles can display a small green panel to the left of the number plate to show that the car is fully electric. 

If you need to replace your number plate because it doesn't comply with the rules or if you bought a personalised plate, you can find your nearest supplier here


Tags: *Registration *Registration_Plates *Number_Plates *Reg_Plate *DVLA 

Written by Lois | 4 min read
21 Feb 2022