Do you know what your registration plate actually means?

Do you know what your registration plate actually means?
Do you know what your registration plate actually means?

It’s new registration time, meaning that this week hundreds of thousands of drivers will proudly leave the showroom at the wheel of their 18-plate car. But it turns out that one in three won’t understand what that plate actually means.

A poll of 2,000 drivers has found that two thirds of them didn’t realise the first two letters relate to the car’s place of registration and, more surprisingly, a third didn’t know that the following letters indicate its age.

The survey suggested that one in eight car owners aged over 55 were unable to learn anything about a car from its licence plate. Drivers aged 17-25 years came off even worse, however, as the research found one in five of the younger generation couldn’t interpret the plates at all.

However while 20 per cent of 17-25 year olds were clueless when it comes to reading a plate, more than half (56 per cent) knew enough to tell that the numbers on a plate indicate the age of the vehicle.

When it came to the pre-2000 prefix/suffix system 67 per cent of all drivers didn’t realise the single letter indicated the car’s age.

Top 10 models that peak at new reg time

Peugeot 3008
Audi Q5
Citroen C4 Cactus
Ford Kuga
Volkswagen Touran
Dacia Duster
Kia Ceed
BMW 3 Series
Vauxhall Mokka

To help those who struggle to comprehend modern plates, carwow, which conducted the poll, has put together a “reading” guide:

Where was your vehicle registered?

This information can be identified in the first two letters on your number plate. The first letter indicates the region your car originated in, so Essex would be ‘E’ and the second letter then tells you which DVLA office the car was registered at.

How old is your vehicle?

Following the first two letters you will then see two numbers. These tell you how old your car is. Every year, the DVLA issues two lots of number combinations, one in March and one in September. All plates issued between March and August will use the number of the year they are registered. For example, a car issued in April 2018, will have ‘18’. Between September 2018 and February 2019 however, new cars will display ‘68’ rather than ‘18’, indicating they were registered post September 2018 but before March 2019.

What do the remaining letters tell you?

The last three letters in a number plate are random therefore making your registration plate unique. Using the DVLA’s current scheme, your number is covered up until February 2051 – giving you plenty of time to practise your reading skills.

What about registrations before September 2001?

From 1983 onward, the year was indicated by a letter. Following the alphabet from A in 1983 will usually give your answer – but such cars are rarely seen on today’s roads.

Carwow’s data also revealed that that the models with the greatest uplift in sales around the time of number plate changes are crossovers such as the Peugeot 3008, which saw a jump in sales more than eight times above carwow’s average over the past two number plate changes.

Karen Hilton, head of sales operations at carwow, says: “The time of the new licence plate is still a big occasion for everyone who loves cars. There is nothing quite like that new car feel and smell.

“At carwow, we are expecting the new plate change to correlate with a significant increase in sales as buyers take advantage of the strong manufacturer and dealer offers that are out there.

“It’s telling that it’s families who are driving the demand, too, with crossovers and SUVs showing the biggest change during this period.”

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