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Different Number Plate Formats Explained

There are multiple different types of number plate formats in the UK. From dateless plates to suffix plates to prefix plates to the current number plate style used today, this article will guide you through each different number plate and help you to decode your own plate.


Current Number Plates


The current style of number plate has been in circulation since 2001. The plate comprises of 7 characters – 2 letters, 2 numbers, and 3 letters, as can be seen in the image below.



The first 2 letters are the local memory tag which signifies the area where the vehicle was registered. The first letter indicates the region and the second the DVLA local office.

The middle 2 numbers indicate the age of the vehicle from March to August or September to February. This is demonstrated in the table below.

The 3 final letters are random letters which give the vehicle a unique identity. The letters I and Q are not used, neither are letters that could spell out offensive words.


Year1 March – end of August1 Sept – end of Feb
And so onUntil 50/00 in 2050/51


Prefix Plates


The prefix style of number plate was used in the UK between 1983 and 2001. Prefix number plates look a bit like this: A123 ABC

The first solo letter indicates the age of the vehicle and year of registration, starting at A and ending in Y.

This is followed by 3 numbers that provide the vehicle with a unique ID number.

The prefix format ends with 3 letters that represent the area code of the vehicle registration.


Year of ReleasePrefix Letters
Aug 1983 – July 1984A
Aug ‘84 – July ‘85B
Aug ‘85 – July ‘86C
Aug ‘86 – July ‘87D
Aug ‘87 – July ‘88E
Aug ‘88 – July ‘89F
Aug ‘89 – July ‘90G
Aug ‘90 – July ‘91H
Aug ‘91 – July ‘92J
Aug ‘92 – July ‘93K
Aug ‘93 – July ‘94L
Aug ‘94 – July ‘95M
Aug ‘95 – July ‘96N
Aug ‘96 – July ‘97P
Aug ‘97 – July ‘98R
Aug ‘98 – Feb ‘99S
March ‘99 – Aug ‘99T
Sep ‘99 – Feb 2000V
March 2000 – Aug 2000W
Sep ‘00 – Feb ‘01X
March ‘01 – Aug ‘01Y


Suffix Plates


Suffix format number plates were used on vehicles between 1963-1983. The suffix format looks like this: ABC 123A

In contrast to the prefix plate, the suffix registrations have the age identifier at the end of the plate, as demonstrated in the table below. These letters stop at Y. Letters I and Z are reserved for Northern Ireland registrations. Q is used for vehicles whose manufacture date is unknown. O and U are not used as they can be confused with letters Q and V.

The first 3 characters of the plate identify the area of the country where the vehicle is registered.

This is followed by 3 numbers which serve as the vehicle’s unique identifier.


Year of ReleaseSuffix Letters
Jan 1963 – Dec 1963A
Jan ‘64 – Dec ‘64B
Jan ‘65 – Dec ‘65C
Jan ‘66 – Dec ‘66D
Jan ‘67 – July ‘67E
Jan ‘67 – July ‘68F
Aug ‘68 – July ‘69G
Aug ‘69 – July ‘70H
Aug ‘70 – July ‘71J
Aug ‘71 – July ‘72K
Aug ‘72 – July ‘73L
Aug ‘73 – July ‘74M
Aug ‘74 – July ‘75N
Aug ‘75 – July ‘76P
Aug ‘76 – July ‘77R
Aug ‘77 – July ‘78S
Aug ‘78 – July ‘79T
Aug ‘79 – July ‘80V
Aug ‘80 – July ‘81W
Aug ‘81 – July ‘82X
Aug ‘82 – July ‘83Y


Dateless Plates


Dateless plates were used in the UK from 1903 to 1963. These plates have no age indicator and are more desirable so are the most expensive type of private plate. Dateless plates read 1 ABC or ABC 1.


Number Plate Guidelines


When choosing your own private number plate, there are a few rules you must follow, regardless of the format:

  • It is illegal to choose a registration that makes your vehicle appear newer than it is – but you can use a number plate that is the same age or older than your vehicle.
  • Your number plate must not use different typefaces, it must use the mandatory plate font. It must not use stylised characters like italics or different spacings. If these guidelines are not followed your plate must be replaced.
  • Since April 2009, you can display the flag of England, Scotland, or Wales to the left side of your plate.

For further information on number plate formats or any questions you have regarding number plates, get in touch with us today or search our database of over 40 million private registration plates to find your perfect plate.