Types of UK registrations

1 or 2 letter Registration Number

one or two letters followed by between one and four numbers, or reversed

These registration numbers are very rare and are generally seen on newer vehicles as cherished plates. Nevertheless these do exist on older vehicles and were originally issued between 1903 and 1930. The reverse (where the numbers precede the letters) are very rare indeed with only a limited amount being released in the 1950s and 1960s. The two letters (sometimes only one) indicate the area (ie where the vehicle was first registered), however if the plate is reversed with the letters suffixing the numbers, then these letters are still the area locator.

3 letter registration number (pre-1963)

three letters and between one and three numbers, or reverse

In this registration number combination, the second and third letters are the area code (same when reversed). The first letter and the three numbers give the vehicle its unique identity, these combinations issued in sequence ie: ABC1, ABC2, ABC3 right through to ABC999. Then BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 etc. Some combinations of this system weren’t originally issued and these have since been released for use as cherished registration numbers. The reversed combination follows the very same format ie: 999ABC followed by 1BBC etc. 

Three letters, three numbers, one letter (1963-1983)

This format was used on all vehicles registered between 1963 and 1983

In this combination, the second two letters are the area identifier, however there is now an additional year identifier in the form of the final letter. In this case, the ‘A’ indicates that the vehicle was registered in 1963 and subsequent years were given the following letter ie: B for 1964 and C for 1965, this being the year in which it was compulsory for regional authorities to issue a yearly indicator. As with the previous system, the first letter and the three numbers are the elements which give the vehicle its unique identity and they work in sequence in the same way as the system used prior to 1963. This combination was discontinued on new vehicles after 1983 but these registration numbers are still issued for older vehicles which require new plates.

One letter, one to three numbers, three letters (1983-2001)

This system was the one in use prior to the current one 

In this combination, the initial letter is the year indicator and the last two letters are the area identifier. The three numbers and the subsequent letter are the unique individual element which provides the vehicle with its unique identity. These numbers were initially issued in sequence from 21 to 999 with some being withheld for use as cherished number plate use only. This combination stopped being issued for new vehicles in September 2001 although it continues to be used in the re-registration of older vehicles needing new plates.

Plates from 1st September 2001

Two letters, two numbers and three letters

The current system has been used since 2001 and the area identifier can be seen in the first two letters. In this case, A represents East Anglia while the B represents the particular town or city in that area where the vehicle was registered. The area identifiers are different to those in use prior to 2001. The two numbers used indicate the year of registration, in this particular instance between 1st Sept 2001 and 28th Feb 2002. The three subsequent letters are the unique individual element of the vehicle and these have been issued roughly in sequence. There have been some omissions such as those deemed to be offensive or those reserved for personalised number plates.