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Number plate styles, formats and types

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Different styles and types of UK number plates

Since car registration number plates were introduced in 1903, the number plate format has changed a few times. The most recent change to the number plate style was in September 2001- these are referred to as current style number plates.

These are the different number plate types:


Current style number plates

The current (new) style number plates came along in September 2001, when the prefix number plates ran out.
The two digits (called the year identifier) in the middle tell us the year that registration number was issued. Take a look at our list of car registration numbers dates for all the year identifiers. Because these number plates have a year identifier, there are DVLA number plate rules that mean you can only assign a registration number to a vehicle of the same year or newer.
 
To see what a current style number plate looks like watch our video.
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Prefix style number plates

The prefix style number plates started in August 1983, and ran till August 2001 - when the suffix number plates ran out.
These have one letter, up to three numbers, then another three letters.
The first letter is the year identifier, so the same DVLA number plate rules apply - you can only assign a registration number to a vehicle of the same year or newer.
 
For more information, watch this video on prefix numer plates.
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Suffix style number plates

The suffix style number plates started in February 1963 (when dateless number plates were running out)  and ran till August 1983 when we finished the letter Y.
On suffix style number plates the last letter tells us the year it was issued. Here's a full list of all car registration dates for number plates.
Because suffix style number plates have a year identifier, DVLA number plate rules apply - you can only transfer a car registration number to a vehicle if it will make it appear to be newer than it is.
 
Here's our video explaining more about suffix style number plates.
 
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Dateless number plates

Dateless number plates are so-called because, unlike most other registration numbers, they don't have a letter or numbers that identify the year they were issued.
These were the first number plates, issued from 1903 (when car registration number plates were first introduced in the UK) until 1963 - when the more densely populated areas were running out of letter combinations. It had become clear that there were going to be far more cars on the road and the system of allocating number plates was no longer going to work.
Dateless number plates can be transferred to a vehicle of any age, but they are not to be confused with Irish number plates!
 
Take a look at our video showing more on dateless number plates.
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Irish number plates

Irish number plates are issued in Northern Ireland.
Like dateless number plates, there's no year identifier, so there are no restrictions on the age of the vehicle you can assign them to.
Find out more about Irish number plates and watch the video which explains how to spot one.
 
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