In 1903 Car Registrations were introduced, to enable owners of vehicles to be identified. The Introduction of The Motor Car Act made it compulsory for all motorised vehicles to be registered with a Car Registration.

Responding to the Act of 1903, a now long-forgotten Westminster civil servant came up with a straightforward, easily recognizable system of vehicle registration marks – which developed into one of the most enduring features of the entire age of motoring in the British Isles. The new alphabet-based system included a regional identification plan, founded on the then national arrangement of county councils and county borough councils จองทะเบียนรถ (burgh councils in Scotland). Early registration marks consisted of single letters and up to four numbers, the letters representing strategically placed urban or rural councils in descending order of total population around the British Isles. Under this system, the first registration mark to be allocated was A 1, issued by London County Council soon after the 1903 legislation received royal assent. Some letters – G, I, S, V and Z – were earmarked for use in Scotland and Ireland, and along with Q, were withheld. The remaining twenty letters were insufficient to provide all English authorities with registration allocations, so (with some exceptions, particularly combinations that included letters from the list above as ‘second’ letters) two-letter combinations starting at AA and preceding as far as FP were also issued.

Nowadays however Car Registrations have become the most popular accessory for the modern day car owner. People are now choosing to replace their standard issue numbers with car registrations stating their initials. Car Owners these days are looking to stand out in the crowd are adding distinctive car registrations to their vehicles. For example one funny number plate that is being offered for sale by Speedy Registrations is DO57 COW. These days hundreds of car registrations are being sold each week, with prices starting from £40 plus VAT plus Transfer Fee.

Since the Introduction of Car Registrations in the GB mainland there have been various formats:

1. Dateless
2. Suffix
3. Prefix
4. Current Style


The earliest type of registration survived for an incredible 60 years, from 1904, and had nothing at all to denote the year of issue.

Initially, the marks were made up of a local council identifier code, of up to 3 letters, followed by a random number, eg. ABC 123.
In the early 1950s, as numbers started to run out, the components were reversed, giving rise to registrations in the format 123 ABC.

All dateless registrations are now in high demand, especially short combinations, 60 E for example, which is worth in excess of £12,000 because of the single initial and the fact it is made up of only three characters.


By 1963, a number of local councils (each of which had until then issued plates beginning with letters identifying their area) had run out of registrations.

As a result of this, the Suffix system was introduced, a letter indicating the year of registration being added at the end of the plate, which until then had comprised only 3 letters followed by 3 numbers.

Thus, 1963 plates had the format AAA 111A, 1964 plates AAA 111B and so on.


The Classic Prefix system started in August 1983, and has a single letter identifying the year of issue at the beginning of the registration mark.

Prefix registrations can be broken down in three sections:

First Letter: The year the car was registered and put on the road, hence its age. A for 1983, B for 1984 and so on

Last two letters: An area code that indicates where the plate was registered.

The three numbers and the first of the three letters on the end, have no meaning, only providing a variation for identification. The final two letters are the area code.
This system continued until the end of August 2001, and a large number of these registrations were held back for later release or for personalised registrations.

The letters I, O, U and Z were not issued at all as Classic Prefix letters, and Q was used only where the age or origin of the vehicle could not be identified.

Current Style

In 2001 the DVLA changed the system to take account of police evidence that suggested witnesses, particularly in ‘ hit and run’ incidents, remember the letters of a registration mark much more easily than the numbers. As people read from left to right it made sense to put this information, the local code, at the beginning rather than the end of the number plate. As the result the current system for registrations is made up of 3 parts, as shown below.

Local Region

This represents the place where the car was first registered. Vehicles registered in Birmingham, for example, begin with the letters BA – BY; those registered in Chelmsford begin EA – EY.

Date ID

This indicates the date of registration of the vehicle, and changes every 6 months, in March and September.

The system started with the use of 51 to denote the 6 months from September 2001, with 02 replacing it in March 2002. 52 then denotes September 2002, 03 denotes March 2003 and so on. This will carry on until March 2010, by when 10 and 60 will have been reached.


The last three letters are random to any vehicle, and can now include Z.

With the growth of the Internet, you can now easily obtain your new car registration for your vehicle. If you are looking for inspiration for your new purchase you should have a look at Speedyreg website and their smart search facility. You will have access to various searches from pet names, to boys and girls names to even car makes and models.

Car Registrations will either be held on Donor Vehicle or held on a Retention Certificate. If the car registration you purchase is held on a Donor Vehicle, it is important to note that you will need to supply vehicle documents for transfer, ie V5C – vehicle registration certificate and MOT certificate. However if the car registrations are held on a Retention Certificate then you will not need to supply vehicle documents immediately as it can be held until you obtain your new vehicle.