Vehicle registration numbers and number plates explained
Why do we have vehicle registration numbers?
Vehicle registration numbers are a way of identifying vehicles and are owned by the Secretary of State. They are allocated to vehicles as part of the process of registering and taxing vehicles.
The registration number is given to the vehicle, not the registered keeper. It will stay with the vehicle (until the vehicle is broken up, destroyed or exported permanently out of the country) unless the registered keeper applies to take off and put it on another vehicle or on to a retention certificate (V778).
Entitlement to a vehicle registration number
When you buy a personalised (private) registration number, you buy the right to apply to put it on a vehicle registered in your name or someone else’s name (the nominee). When you sell a vehicle the registration number will stay with the vehicle unless you apply to take it off and put it on another vehicle or on to a retention certificate (V778). For more information go to www.gov.uk/personalised-vehicle-registration-numbers
Vehicle registration format
The current vehicle registration format was introduced on 1 September 2001. It consists of:
• two letters (these refer to the region in the country where a vehicle is first registered)
• two numbers (these tell you when it was issued)
• a space and three letters are chosen at random.
Displaying vehicle registration numbers
Vehicle registration numbers must be correctly displayed on number plates as set out in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations (as appropriate). These regulations govern how vehicle registration number plates are designed, manufactured and displayed.
You can’t rearrange or misrepresent the numbers and letters on a number plate to form names or words, so that they are hard to read. For example, fixing bolts to change any of the letters or numbers. You could be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates. In some cases, the registration number may be permanently withdrawn.
If you misrepresent a vehicle registration number you will not get back any money that you have paid for the registration number, or any other costs you have to pay.
You cannot use a registration number to make your vehicle appear younger than it actually is.
DVLA memory tags and age identifiers
Defined by a Letter, Postal area & DVLA memory tag identifier
Peterborough Norwich Ipswich
AA AB AC AD AE AF AG AH AJ AK AL AM AN AO AP AR AS AT AU AV AW AX AY
BA – BY
Cardiff Swansea Bangor
CA CB CC CD CE CF CG CH CJ CK CL CM CN COCP CR CS CT CU CV CW CX CY
Deeside to Shrewsbury
DA DB DC DD DE DF DG DH DJ DK DL DM DN DO DP DR DS DT DU DV DW DX DY
EA – EY
Forest & Fens
FA FB FC FD FE FF FG FH FJ FK FL FM FN FP FR FS FT FV FW FX FY
Garden of England
GA GB GC GD GE GF GG GH GJ GK GL GM GN GO GP GR GS GT GU GV GW GX GY
Hampshire & Dorset
HA HB HC HD HE HF HG HH HJ HK HL HM HN HO HP HR HS HT HU HV HW HX HY (HW will be used exclusively for Isle of Wight residents)
KA KB KC KD KE KF KG KH KJ KK KLKM KN KO KP KR KS KT KU KV KW KX KY
Wimbledon Borehamwood Sidcup
LA LB LC LD LE LF LG LH LJ LK LL LM LN LO LP LR LS LT LU LV LW LX LY
Manchester & Merseyside
MA – MY (MN + MAN Reserved for the Isle of Man)
NA NB NC ND NE NG NH NJ NK NL NM NN NO NP NR NS NT NU NV NW NX NY
OA – OY
PA PB PC PD PE PF PG PH PJ PK PL PM PN PO PP PR PS PTPU PV PW PX PY
RA – RY
Glasgow Edinburgh Dundee Aberdeen Inverness
SA SB SC SD SE SF SG SH SJSK SL SM SN SOSP SR SS STSU SV SWSX SY
VA – VY
West of England
Exeter Truro Bristol
WA WB WC WD WE WF WG WH WJ WK WL WM WN WO WP WR WS WT WU WV WW WX WY
Leeds Sheffield Beverley
YA YB YC YD YE YF YG YH YJ YK YL YM YN YO YP YR YS YT YVYU YW YX YY
You can download a copy of the DVLA INF 1014 here
For further information on number plates and the DVLA, please refer to our downloads page here