Car registrations history and information.

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We can trace the UK car registration system back to 1903. The Motor Car act came into force On January 1st, 1904 and required all vehicles in the United Kingdom to carry registration number plates. County and Borough Councils originally issued the registrations and number plates. This lasted until 1974 at which time the Department of Transport took over by using specially equipped Vehicle Registration Offices (VROs).

The individual councils were issued with one or more letter codes for registering vehicles, and both one and two letter codes were issued from 1903. This original system used a one or two letter area code and between one and four numbers. For example: A1 up to AA9999, but by the 1930's these had run out and so a new system was needed.

A1 - YY9999 : 1903 - 1930's

AAA1 - YYY999 : 1930's - 1960's

During the 1930's the single and double area code registrations became obsolete and 3-letter area codes became necessary. This was in the form of an extra serial letter added to the front of the original letter codes. These new registrations where first used around 1932, but due to the standard size of number plates it could only accomodate 3 numbers and these where rotated in conjunction with the first registration letter. For example ADA999 would rotate over to BDA 1.

AAA - 999YYY : 1950's - 1960's

In the 1950's the system was reversed by councils who had run out of combinations in the previous series, now with the numbers prefixing the letters (e.g. 237RYU). A small number of councils ran out of these numbers by the late 1950's / early 1960's and as a temporary measure, four number / one or two letter area code registrations were issued (e.g. 2345AA). These did not have a serial letter, the one or two letters being the area codes as originally issued in the reversed format. Only the single letter area codes D,E,F,H,K,N,R,U and W were issued in this reversed format (e.g. 1042D) between 1953 and 1962. This was the last time the single letter area codes were used. Not all of these numbers were issued, making this type of number rarer than the ABC123 type. Some of these numbers are now being auctioned off as personalised registrations.

AAA1A - Y999YYY : 1963 - 2001

By the 1960's, some of the busier councils began to run out of numbers again and it was clear an extra letter or number was needed on the plates. From 1963 the suffix letter "A" was added to the registrations of some busier councils (e.g. NAT233A), the letter changed to "B" in 1964 and so on. Not all councils used the "year suffix letter" until 1965 when the "C" suffix was issued and the addition of the year letter became compulsory. On 1 October 1974, registrations were centralised, and some area codes changed.

In 1983, the year letter suffix system ran out and it was replaced with a year letter prefix system. This system operated in the same format, but reversed (e.g. A234UUV). There is more information about these year suffix and prefix codes on the age identifier pages. The suffix and prefix letters I,O,Q,U and Z have not been used. The year prefix system ran out with the "Y" prefix on 31 August 2001.

AA51AAA : September 2001 onwards

The current system of number plates is based around the old practice of year and area identifiers but a new, simpler system of codes has been introduced.

In the above example, the AA is the area code and 51 the age identifier. The age identifier changes every 6 months in March and September as before, but gives an 'at a glance' idea of the age of the vehicle with 51 representing September 2001 to February 2002, 02 March to August 2002, 52 September 2002 to February 2003 and so on. The final three letters are serial letters, and for the first time in the UK the letter Z is permitted (only in the serial letters and not in the area code).

The new area codes are listed here and apply to new vehicles registered from 1 September 2001 onwards - vehicles that date before this time will continue to use the previous system. The new system has been designed to last for at least 50 years and if reversed (i.e. AAA 51AA) could last until 2099

Suffix Dates of issue
A January 1963 - December 1963
B January 1964 - December 1964
C January 1965 - December 1965
D January 1966 - December 1966
E January 1967 - July 1967
F August 1967 - July 1968
G August 1968 - July 1969
H August 1969 - July 1970
J August 1970 - July 1971
K August 1971 - July 1972
L August 1972 - July 1973
M August 1973 - July 1974
N August 1974 - July 1975
P August 1975 - July 1976
R August 1976 - July 1977
S August 1977 - July 1978
T August 1978 - July 1979
V August 1979 - July 1980
W August 1980 - July 1981
X August 1981 - July 1982
Y August 1982 - July 1983
Prefix Dates of issue
A August 1983 - July 1984
B August 1984 - July 1985
C August 1985 - July 1986
D August 1986 - July 1987
E August 1987 - July 1988
F August 1988 - July 1989
G August 1989 - July 1990
H August 1990 - July 1991
J August 1991 - July 1992
K August 1992 - July 1993
L August 1993 - July 1994
M August 1994 - July 1995
N August 1995 - July 1996
P August 1996 - July 1997
R August 1997 - July 1998
S August 1998 - February 1999
T March 1999 - August 1999
V September 1999 - February 2000
W March 2000 - August 2000
X September 2000 - February 2001
Y March 2001 - August 2001
Year March September
2001 - 51
2002 02 52
2003 03 53
2004 04 54
2005 05 55
2006 06 56
2007 07 57
2008 08 58
2009 09 59
2010 10 60
2011 11 61
2012 12 62
2013 13 63
2014 14 64
2015 15 65
2016 16 66
2017 17 67
2018 18 68
2019 19 69
2020 20 70
2021 21 71
2022 22 72
2023 23 73
2024 24 74
2025 25 75
2026 26 76
2027 27 77
2028 28 78
2029 29 79
2030 30 80
2031 31 81
2032 32 82
2033 33 83
2034 34 84
2035 35 85
2036 36 86
2037 37 87
2038 38 88
2039 39 89
2040 40 90
2041 41 91
2042 42 92
2043 43 93
2044 44 94
2045 45 95
2046 46 96
2047 47 97
2048 48 98
2049 49 99

 

 

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