Every vehicle has them, but how do registration plates work, and how are they supposed to be read?

Registration plates change twice throughout the year to help us easily identify a few things about the car – as well as gossip about which neighbour has bought a new car. The registration plate system can be difficult to understand for some, especially when you add personalised plates into the mix.

So, how do registration plates work, and how do we go about getting a personalised plate?

How To Read A Registration Plate?

The UK number plate system can be confusing at times; so lets explain what those numbers and letters actually mean.

  • The first two numbers of the registration plate indicate the area code of the DVLA office the car was first registered to.
  • The number on the registration plate is the age identifier: this tells you what year and in which 6-month period the car was first registered.
  • The last three letters are purely random. These make the cars different to other vehicles on the road – fun fact, Z is only used as a random letter and is never used as an area code.

Age Identifier

The age identifier changes in March and September every year. The code is the last two digits of the year it was issued. For registration plates issued between March and August 2017, the age identifier would be ‘17’. If you got the vehicle in October of 2017 then the registration would be issued as ‘67’.

Although there is no official reason for this change, however, one of the advantages of doing this is that the numbers won’t run out until 2051.


You often see registration plates with a blue strip on the side. UK cars conform to the European standard design, which incorporates a strip on the side with the EU symbol, the gold stars, and the country identification code. For us, that would be GB. Although this isn’t compulsory you must display a GB sticker if you are driving outside the UK and do not have the EU symbol on your registration plate.

We don’t know yet how leaving the EU will affect our registration plates on our new and best used cars.