The History of Number Plates

Whether you see a private number plate as an investment, something to cherish, a way to show off or even just a piece of plastic that came with your vehicle, every driver has one. Throughout the years we have seen five different number plate formats introduced, going from dateless to suffix, prefix then the current style respectively as well as the ever present Irish registration number format.

Dateless Number Plates 1903-1963

Whether you see a private number plate as an investment, something to cherish, a way to show off or even just a piece of plastic that came with your vehicle, every driver has one. Throughout the years we have seen four different number plate formats introduced, going from dateless to suffix, prefix then the current style respectively as well as the ever present Irish registration number format.

Dateless number plates are the oldest and rarest registrations available. Originating in 1903, the first ever number plate to be issued was in fact A 1, issued in London at the time. Dateless registration numbers range from one letter and one number to three letters and four numbers leaving plenty of room for creativity when it comes to finding your ideal plate.

The reason they are called dateless number plates is because a vast majority of the records from the early 1900's are missing or incomplete. Add to this the fact that many councils issued car registrations at different times, it makes it almost impossible to determine an accurate date for these plates.

As well as this dateless plates are a lot rarer than the other styles of registrations as many of them were scrapped in the past and also because they are not for sale through the DVLA's website meaning they can only be purchased from dealers or private sellers where available. Add to this the fact that a dateless number can be assigned to any age vehicle, it becomes easy to see why dateless registration numbers are still so popular today.

Suffix Number Plates 1963-1983

The suffix style number plate was initially introduced in 1963 as a way for the DVLA to expand the number of possible combinations that could be issued to vehicles. It was decided that the new system would simply incorporate a single letter at the end of the registration as this would not only drastically increase the number of possible combinations but also due to the fact that the letter could be used as a year signifier. A suffix style number plate therefore consists of three letters followed by up to three numbers (1-999) followed by the single year signifying letter (excluding I, O, Q, U & Z). A new letter would be released once per year ranging from January 1963 up until July 1983.

Prefix Number Plates 1983-2001

The prefix style number plate was initially introduced in 1983 when the suffix style registration was beginning to run low in supply. The style was designed to be the reverse of the prior used suffix format where it consisted of a single letter as a year signifier (excluding I, Q & Z) followed by up to three numbers ranging from 1 to 999 followed by 3 letters. This in turn gave the DVLA millions more possible number plate combinations & it has gone on to remain a popular style of private number plate still seen on vehicles today. Prefix number plates also saw the introduction of two series of number plates being released per year starting with the S series in 1998.

Current Style Number Plates 2001-Present Day

Current style number plates were introduced back in 2001 when the prefix system came to an end and this is the system still in use to date.The current style registration is split into three separate sections, each with its own purpose. The first two letters indicate where the vehicle was initially registered. The first of these two letters indicate a region & the second a DVLA local office. The two numbers in the middle of the registration indicate the age of the vehicle based on a 6 month period ranging from either March to August or September to February. A new age period is started on the 1st March and the 1st September every year. Whilst the current style system is still in place. Finally, the last three letters are completely random and give the vehicle its unique identity.

Because of the way the current style number plate system is structured, all current registration numbers consist of exactly seven characters, something that was not the case previously. With the dateless, prefix and suffix system, numbers would range from two characters up to seven.

As well as the above mentioned character restriction on current style number plates, additional rules were also brought into place such as a new mandatory font that was to be universal across all current registration numbers. As well as this there was also new rules against bolts however national flags are now approved on current number plates.

Irish Number Plates

Irish number plates are registrations which are issued to vehicles from Northern Ireland. It is however still possible to assign an Irish number plate to a vehicle registered in the UK.

When people were able to transfer cherished number plates it became somewhat of a trend to buy and transfer Irish number plates due to the fact that they were so different to all the other available number plate formats. They are usually instantly recognisable as they contain the letters "I" or "Z", something which is not seen in prefix or suffix style number plates so this allows them to come in a variety of combinations.

Letters such as "I", "Q" & "Z" have generally been left out of UK number plates as they can be mistaken as the numbers 1, 0 or 2, which in turn is problematic for the authorities when it comes to identifying vehicles in the case of a crime. Only since the newer style number plates has Z been a valid number plate character as previously Z & I had only been seen on Irish number plates and Q was a character used to signify kit cars as they could have been built at any time.

Irish registration numbers are also considered to be a dateless style of number plate, meaning that they can be assigned to any vehicle regardless of its age. This means that buying an Irish number plate couldn’t be easier as you don’t have to consider the car you’re putting it onto.

SUMMARY:

1903 - 1962: Dateless Registration Numbers

1963 - 1982: Suffix series - Introduction of a year identifying letter

1983 - 2001: Prefix series - Reverse of the older Suffix system

2001 - Present Day Current system used on cars today

Irish Number Plates - Dateless

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Finding your perfect plate! NetPlates personalised registrations have over 45 million registrations available to buy online, so finding your ideal number plate might seem daunting at first, but the process is very simple. What's the total cost? The all-inclusive price of VAT(If any), the compulsory £80 DVLA assignment fee meaning there are no hidden charges other than the optional £30 set of plastic plates. What Happens Next? Once you have purchased your chosen registration number, we can send you the registration on a certificate or we can handle the entire transfer process onto your vehicle free of charge.
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