Car expert explains ‘hidden’ meaning behind letters on number plates

Front view of blue car with UK number plate

Most people will be aware of the format of car registration plates – including numbers and letters – but may be surprised to know that it is not just a random combination afterall.

It may be common knowledge that the numbers included on the plate refer to the year the vehicle was registered for the road – as well as which half of the year this happened in. For example, this year, cars issued before September 1 have a 23 number plate, but those registered after will boast a 73 registration number.

But what may be a lesser known fact is that the two letters before the numbers also have a significant meaning.

Jon Kirkbright, sales director at Private Number Plates, has over 11 years of experience in the industry and has told how these letters are actually regional identifiers.

He said: “To the untrained eye, number plates may look like a random combination of letters and numbers.

“While many people will be aware that the numbers refer to the year the car was made and registered, they may not know that the letters before them also have a hidden meaning.

“They are known as ‘regional identifiers’ and refer to the DVLA office where the car was registered.

“This may be why your number plates start with the same letters if you buy more than one car from the same dealership, for example. It is not just a coincidence.”

If motorists choose to purchase a private registration plate, then that rule no longer applies as they are able to select a letter and number combination themselves.

However, Jon has stressed that private number plates cannot be put onto cars to make them appear to be newer than what they are.

He explained: “It is an offence to mis-represent the registration in any way. You can make your car seem older than it actually is but you are not allowed to make it look newer.

“For example, you cannot put an 11 number plate on a 07 plate car.”

Someone who wants to disguise the age of their car may be interested in purchasing a dateless private registration plate instead.

Jon added: “Contrary to what many people believe, dateless personalised registrations can be found at very low prices…

“These are ideal if you want a completely unique plate or perhaps a registration that disguises the age of your car, but they do tend to move on quickly.”

With the hidden letter meaning in mind, drivers with original plates should be able to find out which area of the country their car was registered at by using the data below:

Regional Identifiers | Location | Postal area

AA AB AC AD AE AF AG AH AJ AK AL AM AN | Anglia | Peterborough
AO AP AR AS AT AU | Anglia | Norwich
AV AW AX AY | Anglia | Ipswich
BA – BY | Birmingham | Birmingham
CP CR CS CT CU CV | Cymru | Swansea
CW CX CY | Cymru | Bangor
DA DB DC DD DE DF DG DH DJ DK | Deeside to Shrewsbury | Chester
DL DM DN DO DP DR DS DT DU DV DW DX DY | Deeside to Shrewsbury | Shrewsbury
EA – EY | Essex | Chelmsford
FA FB FC FD FE FF FG FH FJ FK FL FM FN FP | Forest & Fens | Nottingham
FR FS FT FV FW FX FY | Forest & Fens | Lincoln
GA GB GC GD GE GF GG GH GJ GK GL GM GN GO | Garden of England | Maidstone
GP GR GS GT GU GV GW GX GY | Garden of England | Brighton
HA HB HC HD HE HF HG HH HJ | Hampshire & Dorset | Bournemouth
HK HL HM HN HO HP HR HS HT HU HV HW HX HY (HW will be used exclusively for Isle of Wight residents) | Hampshire & Dorset | Portsmouth
KA KB KC KD KE KF KG KH KJ KK KL | | Borehamwood
KM KN KO KP KR KS KT KU KV KW KX KY | | Northampton
LA LB LC LD LE LF LG LH LJ | London | Wimbledon
LK LL LM LN LO LP LR LS LT | London | Borehamwood
LU LV LW LX LY | London | Sidcup
MA – MY (MN + MAN Reserved for the Isle of Man) | Manchester & Merseyside | Manchester
NA NB NC ND NE NG NH NJ NK NL NM NN NO | North | Newcastle
NP NR NS NT NU NV NW NX NY | North | Stockton
OA – OY | Oxford | Oxford
PU PV PW PX PY | Preston | Carlisle
RA – RY | Reading | Theale
SA SB SC SD SE SF SG SH SJ | Scotland | Glasgow
SK SL SM SN SO | Scotland | Edinburgh
SP SR SS ST | Scotland | Dundee
SU SV SW | Scotland | Aberdeen
SX SY | Scotland | Inverness
VA – VY | Severn Valley | Worcester
WA WB WC WD WE WF WG WH WJ | West of England | Exeter
WK WL | West of England | Truro
WM WN WO WP WR WS WT WU WV WW WX WY | West of England | Bristol
YA YB YC YD YE YF YG YH YJ YK | Yorkshire | Leeds
YL YM YN YO YP YR YS YT YU | Yorkshire | Sheffield
YV YW YX YY | Yorkshire | Beverley

For more information or help with purchasing a private number plate – or selling one – visit Private Number Plates.
Alternatively, you could contact them on Facebook.

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