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DVLA number plates in UK: The Definitive Guide

Private plates image
Table of Contents

On UK roads, there are many vehicles, and all of their DVLA number plates are different. On each, there are six or seven numbers or letters, but what do they mean? British car number plate numbers are divided by several different factors. Today we will explore British car DVLA number plates and what they mean. Since all areas in the United Kingdom and the outlying islands have their own special provisions, we will focus on the English rules here.

Regular DVLA number plates

The Rules Now (2001-Present)

Let’s take a look at the current number plate:

DVLA number plates private
DVLA number plates in Great Britain

Each area on the number plate has its own meaning – it is divided into four parts:

Part1 is the blue EU flag.

This was a British requirement after joining the EU. GB is Great Britain, on behalf of the United Kingdom. If traveling to other EU countries, you can see the letters of the other EU countries, such as F for France, or I for Italy. This logo is not always necessary, but if you need to drive to the European continent, you will need to buy a temporary GB sign near to the plate.

Part2 is a UK local area code.

The first two letters together make up a local tag or area code and represent the local registry. Although all the registries were closed in December 2013 and taken over by the DVLA, the first two letters continue to be used on behalf of the local code. The letters I, Q, and Z are not used. For example, “A”represents a vehicle that has been registered by three registries in East Anglia. The other letters representing the area code are shown in the catalog License Plate Maker 101, Number plate code & DVLA Office of the United Kingdom(213 KB):

Guide of DVLA UK plate
License Plate Maker 101, Number plate code & DVLA Office of the United Kingdom

Part3 consists of two year digits.

It is changed twice a year, in March and September. The first half of the year is the year directly written. For example, in the first half of 2011, 11 will be used. In the first half of 2005, it will be 05, and so on. In the second half of this year, add 50 onto the base, which means that the license rules can only be used in 2050. The second half of 2015 will be written as 65, and the second half of 2033 will be 83.

Year digits on UK plate after 2001
Year digits on DVLA number plates after 2001

Part4 of the number plate is a random three-letter combination.

Rules before 2001

After all, it has been 15 years since 2001, and most people have already changed cars. However, a few people still drive old cars from 15 years ago. As long as your car gets an annual MOT (inspection by DVLA), you can continue to use your car. There is no mandatory scrapping. This is possible so the streets of the United Kingdom can be full of handsome, classic cars.

The number plate rules before 2001: generally consists one letter, three digits, plus three letters:
However, these DVLA number plates are not as regular as the modern number plate. I, O, U, or Z cannot be used as letters, as they might be confused with 1,0, v, or 2, respectively. The rules are as follows:

The meaning of letters on DVLA number plates
Letters of regions on DVLA number plate

Private DVLA number plates

If you see on the road a number plate with no particular logic to it and the combination is unusual, then there are only two situations. The first is that it is a private number plate, and the second is that it is a car from before 2001. British citizens everywhere, of course, want to have a more personal and private number plate. The DVLA also has special provisions for those who are willing to pay more to buy their own private label. In general, the smaller the number, the more it costs. Some DVLA number plates can reach hundreds of thousands of pounds, or even millions of pounds, such as:

In addition, this private number is not associated with the car. In other words, you casually buy and sell vehicles, but this number will be with you forever.
Many of the current private plates are also issued because the car has been scrapped before, but must stay in line with the normal licensing rules. However, this situation is relatively rare.

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