How does the car registration system work in the UK?

Have you ever wondered how the number plate system works in the UK? Read on to find out everything you need to know…

An age-related tradition

Britain’s car registration system is rather unique. We are one of the few countries that issue registration numbers based on the age of the car. This is a tradition that dates back to the 1960’s. Previously, a letter from A to X was used to denote the age of a vehicle. This letter was placed either at the start or end of the registration number. The only way to understand the registration plate was to memorise what each letter meant.

What about the system we used today?

The present vehicle registration system was introduced 17 years ago. Instead of using letters, numbers are used to signify the age of the vehicle. So, the 18 plates you see on the road today simply represent cars that have been built in 2018. This made it easier to follow, and it made it easier for car manufacturers to track their yearly statistics.

You may be wondering how this is so. Well, prior to the new system being introduced, people used to rush to get the latest plate. They knew registration marks changed twice a year, and so they would wait to buy a car a month or two later so they could benefit from the latest registration mark. This is not the only reason there is less of a rush today. In fact, the numbers on a registration place have a lower impact on the value of the vehicle today.

Interestingly, a behavioural insights unit has proposed green plates for eco-friendly cars. So, if you use a Tesla chauffeur service in the future, it may have a different colour plate. This will let everyone know your business uses electric vehicles, further highlighting how a Tesla chauffeur service can enhance your brand image. Such plates are already used in China, Canada and Norway.

Reading number plates

Of course, the age of the vehicle is not the only element of a number plate, so let’s take a look at reading a car registration in further detail. A number plate in the UK is made up of four elements:

  • Local memory tag
  • Age identifier
  • Random letters

The first two letters represent the local memory tag. This shows where the vehicle was registered. The first letter signifies the region, and the second represents a DVLA local office.

The next two letters represent the age of a vehicle. It is important to recognise that the age identifier changes twice a year – on 1st March and 1st September.

Finally, your registration plate concludes with three random letters. These are provided at random to give your car a unique identity.

National flags on number plates

You may have also noticed that some vehicles have national flags on the number plate. This was a rule introduced in April 2009. However, no other type of flag or symbol is permitted.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding the car registration system in the UK.