What year is my car?

The only time many of us take notice of a number plate is if we’re stuck in a traffic jam with nothing else to look at – but did you know those series of letters and numbers can tell you how old the car is and where in the country it was registered? This quick guide will explain all.

Why do we have number plates?

Number plates were introduced in 1903 so that the government had a record of who owned what vehicle – the very first number plates were DY1 and A1. Since then, there have been various different number plate formats. The current format uses a prefix and suffix system.

How does the current system work?

The standard issue number plates we have today were introduced in 2001 and are made up of three elements, let’s take the 59-plate year as an example: GF59 KNS;

• the area code where the car was registered – shown by the first two letters (GF)
• age markers – shown by two numbers next to the area code (59)
• three random letters – appear after the area and age indicators and make the registration unique to that car (KNS)

Every year, two new age markers are introduced – first in March and then again in September. The March age indicator is easy to remember because it’s the same number as the calendar year – for instance, an ‘18’ reg plate would mean the car was registered in the first part of 2018.

black_car_front_on

The September number is always 50, plus the year number – for example, a car registered in October 2018 would have an age indicator of ‘68’ (50+18).

So, if you’ve ever wondered “how old is my car?” then just take a look at the two numbers after the area code – the table below shows age markers and their corresponding years (handy to know if you’re after a used car of a particular age).

Car reg years1 March to end August1 September to end February
2001-200251
2002-20030252
2003-20040353
2004-20050454
2005-20060555
2006-20070656
2007-20080757
2008-20090858
2009-20100959
2010-20111060
2011-20121161
2012-20131262
2013-20141363
2014-20151464
2015-20161565
2016-20171666
2017-20181767
2018-20191868

What country flag can I have?

You can choose to have a number plate with the EU flag, or appropriate national flags along with a country identifier – here’s what you’re officially allowed:

• the EU flag
• the Union flag
• the Cross of St George
• the Cross of St Andrew
• the Red Dragon of Wales

If you’re driving in Europe and don’t have an EU flag already on your plate marked with ‘GB,’ you’ll need the classic oval sticker with ‘GB’ on it to be legal on the roads.

The prefix and suffix system

If you’ve been driving for a couple of decades, your first car probably used the prefix system of registration – where a single letter at the front of the licence number designated the year; it was used between August 1983 and August 2001. Before 1983, the suffix system was used, where the letter indicating the year was at the end. Here’s what was used and when:

The prefix system used between August 1983 – August 2001The suffix system used between January 1963 – July 1983
Car reg yearsPrefix letterCar reg yearsSuffix letter
August 1983 – July 1984AJanuary 1963 – December 1963A
August 1984 – July 1985BJanuary 1964 – December 1964B
August 1985 – July 1986CJanuary 1965 – December 1965C
August 1986 – July 1987DJanuary 1966 – December 1966D
August 1987 – July 1988EJanuary 1967 – July 1967E
August 1988 – July 1989FAugust 1967 – July 1968F
August 1989 – July 1990GAugust 1968 – July 1969G
August 1990 – July 1991HAugust 1969 – July 1970H
August 1991 – July 1992JAugust 1970 – July 1971J
August 1992 – July 1993KAugust 1971 – July 1972K
August 1993 – July 1994LAugust 1972 – July 1973L
August 1994 – July 1995MAugust 1973 – July 1974M
August 1995 – July 1996NAugust 1974 – July 1975N
August 1996 – July 1997PAugust 1975 – July 1976P
August 1997 – July 1998RAugust 1976 – July 1977R
August 1998 – July 1999SAugust 1977 – July 1978S
March 1999 – August 1999TAugust 1978 – July 1979T
September 1999 – February 2000VAugust 1979 – July 1980V
March 2000 – August 2000WAugust 1980 – July 1981W
September 2000 – February 2001XAugust 1981 – July 1982X
March 2001 – August 2001YAugust 1982 – July 1983Y

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