How UK car number plates display the year the car was made


My car has a 13 plate and (according to my dad, the dealership and everyone else who knows how they work) was made in 2013. Sounds simple until I try to think about by dad’s last car which was a 56 plate and I highly doubt it was made in 1956 or 2056.

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Dad’s car is from 2006, later that year.

The first batch of cars from 2006 have 06 plates and the second batch have 56 plates.

There is table halfway down that page I’ve linked showing you what year cars are from.

There are two registrations a year (I can’t remember the months, possibly March and September), meaning that they go:

* Mar 2010 – 10

* Sep 2010 – 50

* Mar 2011 – 11

* Sep 2011 – 51

* Mar 2020 – 20

* Sep 2020 – 60

* Mar 2021 – 21

* Sep 2021 – 61

The first number denotes whether the registration is from March-Aug or Oct-Feb. The second number denotes the year. It works like so:

If the first number is a 0 (March) or a 5 (Sept), then it was registered in the 00’s. So a 05 reg would mean it was registered between Mar-Aug 2005.

If the first number is a 1 (March) or a 6 (Sept), then it was registered in the 10’s. So a 15 reg would mean it was registered between Mar-Aug 2015.

The first numbers go up in increments every decade.

I might have been able to explain that more simply but hope that helps.

ETA: it just so happens that current registrations are ‘23’. 2 meaning Mar-Sep and 3 meaning 2023. It’s just a coincidence that both numbers match the current year. In September it will become ‘73’.

Current UK license plates all follow a standard format.

The first two letters are a region code for where the car was registered.

The following two numbers denote the year. UK registrations are split into two blocks, one running from March through to the end of August, and one from September to February.

The first digit refers to a combination of the decade and month – 0 is a March-August registration in the 2000’s, 5 is a September-February registration in the 2000’s. For the 2010’s this increments by one to 1 and 6, the 2020’s to 2 and 7 and so on.
The second digit refers to the exact year so a 64 plate will be a car registered between August and February in 2014/2015.

The final three letters are a random identifier, with no specific meaning to them.

Before this system was introduced, there were previous versions. The last used an initial letter to denote the year (originally one letter per year, changing to two letters per year to try and spread out new car purchases a bit more as a lot of people tend to buy new cars to align with an updated number plate). Followed by three random numbers and three random letters (with the letters often being broadly regional).

So a car with a number plate of this format starting with a P meant it was made in 1997/1998.

Before this, the same method was used in reverse – three random letters, the random numbers and a single letter to identify year.

And before this, there were even earlier systems in place using letter codes for the area and random number codes, but with no year marker.

You will be able to find all of these formats in the roads still, either on cars of the appropriate era, or on newer cars that have been given previous number plates – it is possible to move number plates between cars, so you can keep an existing plate and refuse it on a newer car, or buy a plate with a desirable combination to use on your car. The important detail here is that you can only use a plate that is of equal or older age than the vehicle it is being used on. This means you cannot use a brand new plate on an older vehicle to make it appear to be newer than it is, only an old plate to make it appear older.

The reason this happens in March and September is for marketing. The car companies bullied the government into that schedule — it was meant to be January and July.

People tend to buy most new cars in the Spring (so it stays cleaner and has less road salt and corrosion in its early life), and also when the manufacturers announce next-years models at trade shows in the Autumn. And people like to have new year-plates on the new cars, just to show off to the neighbours.

This kind of backfired, because it accentuates two peaks in the sales. It would really be better to smooth out production throughout the year.