A Guide to UK Number Plates

Sep 7, 2020

Is everyone talking about the new 70 number plates? Apart from the 70, do you actually know what all the letters and numbers stand for? Then here is your guide to UK number plates.

What is a Number Plate?
Number plates, also known as vehicle registration plates, are a way of identifying vehicles. They are given to vehicles as part of the registering and taxing vehicles process. The number plate is registered to the car and not the registered keeper. It will stay with the vehicle until it is destroyed or exported. Although an owner can apply to transfer it to another vehicle, if they cherish the number plate.

Number Plate Format
The current format of a number plate was introduced in September 2001. This format is made up of 3 parts:

70 UK Number Plate

AB – these 2 letters represent where the car was registered. (memory tags)

70 – these numbers represent when the car was registered. (age identifiers)

CDE – these 3 letters are randomly generated to give the car a unique identity.

Memory Tags
The 2 letters that represent where the car was registered are called ‘memory tags’ by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency. Using the number plate example above, the first letter, A, represents the region and the letter B represents a DVLA local office.

The table below shows which memory tags represent which area: 

Letter Region DVLA Memory Tag
A Anglia AA-AY
B Birmingham BA-BY
C Cymru CA-CY
D Deeside to Shrewsbury DA-DY
E Essex EA-EY
F Forest & Fens FA-FY
G Garden of England GA-GY
H Hampshire & Dorset HA-HY (HW exclusively for Isle of Wight)
K Borehamwood, Northampton KA-KY
L London LA-LY
M Manchester & Merseyside MA-MY (MN, MAN reserved for the Isle of Man)
N North NA-NY
O Oxford OA-OY
P Preston PA-PY
R Reading RA-RY
S Scotland SA-SY
V Severn Valley VA-VY
W West of England WA-WY
Y Yorkshire YA-YY


The letters I, Q and Z are not used in local memory tags. Z will only appear on a number plate in the random letters.

Age Identifiers
The numbers that represent when the car was registered are called ‘age identifiers’ by the DVLA. Number plates that are launched in March, have the year as the age identifiers and plates launched in September, have the year plus 50 as the age identifiers. So for this year, the number plates launched in March had the age identifier 20 and for the new plates released this September, the age identifier is 70.

The table below shows how the age identifiers will change over the next decade:

Year of Car Registration Plates from 1st March Plates from 1st September
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


This system will keep on going until 2051, when the system will have to be changed or tweaked to avoid duplicate plates. As in March 2051 the age identifier would be 51, but this was the age identifier for number plates registered from September 2001.

Rules and Regulations for Number Plates
You must not rearrange the letters or numbers, or alter them in anyway that makes the number plate difficult to read. Otherwise you could end up with a £1000 fine. Your car could also fail it’s MOT if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.

There are specific guidelines about the design of number plates:

  • Your number plates should be made from a reflective material.
  • Your front plate should display black characters on a white background.
  • Your rear plate should display black characters on a yellow background.
  • There must be no pattern in the background.

Number plates must also be kept to a standard font. Vehicles registered from September 2001, must follow these guidelines:

  • Characters must be 79mm tall
  • Characters must be 50mm wide, apart from number 1 or letter I
  • The thickness of the print must be 14mm
  • The spacing between characters must be 11mm
  • The space between the numbers and the random letters must be 33mm
  • The must be margin of 11m at the top, bottom and side of the plate
  • Vertical space between the numbers and the random letters must be 19mm

Are you looking to buy a new 70 plate car? Need to sell your old car?

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