Car number plates were written into UK law as long ago as 1904 when an official vehicle register was created and all vehicles required to display alphanumeric plates. A lot of things have changed since then, with the far more random combinations of numbers replaced by a standard system back in the sixties.

Car Number Plates Today

Originally the alphanumeric characters on a number plate were displayed in silver on a black background and this remained so right up until 1968 when the current reflective plates were introduced, initially as an option.

As of 1975, reflective plates became standard with white on the front and yellow on the rear. Any vehicle first registered before 1st January 1975 may still carry black plates, but they’re not permitted on later vehicles. Starting with the introduction of the current vehicle registration system in September 2001, all car number plates must conform to a standard typeface with characters of uniform size.

What Do the Characters Mean?

The current registration system is not a random selection of letters and numbers; it’s a fixed system with each character serving a purpose. This follows on from the previous system introduced in 1962, which provided a year of registration indicator in addition to the local identifier that had always existed.

On modern car number plates, the first two letters provide the local identifier. The first letter identifies the region in which the vehicle was registered, whilst the second letter indicates the town within that region. The two numbers that follow are the age identifier, which changes twice a year.

The front half of the year starting each March takes the number of the current year so ‘18’ for 2018. The back half of the year beginning in September will add ‘50’ to this number so a vehicle registered after September 2018 will be ’68.’ The remaining three letters represent the serial number of the vehicle in question – a unique identifier.

Practical Application

The use of a system such as this serves a number of purposes. Having three distinct groups of characters mean individual parts of the registration are much more memorable, so just giving a part of the plate makes it much easier for the police to track a vehicle down. The numbers also make it possible for a potential buyer to quickly ascertain the age of the vehicle without having to look it up.

Personalisation of Number Plates

It is of course permitted to personalise your car number plates. Personalised number plates are available in any combination of characters that match one of the systems in previous use, conditional on the year numbers being in the past. This means you can get your own plates to match your initials or spell out your name if you want to. All you have to do is buy your number of choice through the DVLA, and the plates themselves can be purchased from an authorised retailer.

If you’ve got yourself a personalised number plate or simply damaged your existing plates contact Autoworld for a set of new UK number plates at the right price. We offer high quality number plates including 3D gel number plates to our customers in Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Wigan and nearby areas.