Your guide to car number plates

Want to know what your licence plate means? check out our ultimate guide

It’s that time of the year again! New number plates were launched in the UK on 1st September, meaning some of you will soon be driving off in brand new ‘69’ plates.

But what do these number plates actually mean? And what do the changes mean for you? To celebrate the launch of the new 69 plates, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you learn everything you need to know about number plates.

What are the new car number plates?

From 1st September 2019, all new cars registered in the UK will come with the new ‘69’ number plates, replacing the old ‘19’ versions.

New number plates are introduced twice a year, in March and September. That means that the  ‘69’ plates will apply to all new vehicles registered from 1st September 2019, which will then be replaced by ‘20’ plates on 1st March 2020.

Why do car number plates change?

Number plates have been around for almost as long as cars themselves. France was the first country to introduce plates back in 1893, with the UK following suit in 1903.

The number plate system has taken several different forms over the years – from the early series, which consisted of a one letter code and number from 1 to 9999, to today’s more complex version, introduced back in 2001.

The system is updated to ensure there are enough new combinations to register vehicles, and these days can also be used to quickly identify the age of a vehicle – which can be useful if you’re in the market for a used car.

How do you read a number plate?

UK number plates aren’t the most straightforward things ever, but being able to read them can be a useful skill to have.

The first two letters on your number plate refer to where the car was first registered and are linked to a city or region in the UK. For example, ‘L’ relates to cars registered in London, ‘C’ refers to Cymru/Wales, and ‘M’ links to Manchester and Merseyside.

The two numbers are the age identifier of the car. If the car was registered between 1st March and 31st August, the number refers to the last two digits of the year it was registered. If the car was registered between 1st September and 28th February, then the number is the year of registration plus 50.

The final three letters are random, but along with the first four characters, make up an entirely unique registration number for each vehicle, although some combinations have been banned from use.

How does the number plate change affect me?

There are a number of ways that the plate change can affect you – it all depends on what you’re in the market for.

For some people, having a car with the latest plate is a great way of showing off their brand-new purchase, while others will be keen to take advantage of the latest technologies crammed into the new motors.

If you’re looking for a second-hand vehicle, the weeks leading up to a new plate release can be a great time to get a bargain. Business can be slow in the run-up to March and September as people wait for new plates, meaning dealers might be more open to negotiation.

And if you’re selling, you’ll almost definitely get a better price before the plates change as your car will automatically become a year older once the new plates are introduced.

What are the legal requirements for number plates?

All number plates in the UK look the same because they all legally have to follow the regulations set out by the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure they can be read by the human eye, as well as road cameras.

Number plates must be illuminated at night, unobscured by dirt or anything else, and be of a size, colour, font and spacing that meets DfT regulations.

Driving a vehicle that has altered plates is against the law and can land the owner of the vehicle with a fine of up to £1,000 — so make sure your plate meets the requirements.

What does the number plate change mean for personalised plates?

Some drivers pay extra for personalised number plates, unique to them. In many cases, these personalised plates are unaffected by the number plate changes.

However, if your personalised plate has an age identifier included in it, you’re only able to put that number plate on to a vehicle of equal age as the plate or newer.

To keep up to date with all the driving laws that could affect you, make sure you visit 1ST CENTRAL’s Hub for all things related to the rules of the road.