How To Read UK Number Plates

How To Read UK Number Plates

Number plates, or registrations, are split into a mix of different formats. To find out how to read UK number plates, you need to first understand these car registration formats.

The most common number plate on UK roads is the millennium, or current style number plate. This number plate was introduced in 2001 by the DVLA, and is the format of number plate registered to any modern cars. The number plate format was put in place to create as many variations, and therefore number plates, as possible, so should remain as the dominant format into the future.

Examples of how to read number plates UK that are new style are as follows. First, the new registrations begin with two letters. These are to distinguish where in the country the vehicle was initially registered. After the letters is the two digit number, which tells you the year the vehicle was registered. Then, after a gap, there are three letters, which are completely random. This is so the DVLA can make a huge number of unique sequences, and so every single vehicle has it's own way of being identified.


Then there are prefix and suffix registrations. How to read these UK number plates is simple, and the hint is in the name of each. Prefix number plates came before the current style and start with a letter which again denotes the year of registration. This letter is followed by up by a number between 1 and 999, and then three letters after a space. The last two also show the location the vehicle was registered.


Suffix number plates work the other way round and start with a three-letter sequence. Then, a space, a number (between 1 and 999) and the plate ends with a letter. Again, this single letter indicates the age, just as with the prefix format.

HAN 114H

That's how you read UK number plates when it comes to modern designs, but what about how to read old UK number plates?

Dateless, or cherished number plates, are also known as classic and old registrations. These plates go back to 1903, and to read old UK number plates you start with one, two or three letters at the beginning. Then, there's a space and a series of digits between 1 and 9999. This was changed in 1932 where the format was flipped, placing the number (1 to 9999) first, a space and then the one, two or three letters following.

ABC 123
123 ABC

So there are a couple of examples of how to read number plates UK, including how to read UK number plates of each style, including how to read old UK number plates.

The number plate reading distance UK is currently 20 metres, and if you can't identify any of the characters and distinguish between the different styles of number plates from this distance or below, you need to get an eye-test immediately as this may impact your driving ability. The number plate reading distance UK is set by the DVLA and enforced under UK law, meaning it is illegal to drive if you cannot read a UK number plate from 20 metres away.

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