Car Reg Years Guide: What Year is Your Car?

In this guide

It can be challenging for drivers to figure out how old a number plate is by just looking at it, especially if you’re new to driving. Many people wrongly assume that the assortments of letters and numbers that make up a registration plate are random; however, the truth is that they’re deliberate codes that can help you learn more about the car. 

It’s handy knowing when your registration plate was issued, as it can help you estimate a car’s emission level and can also help with working out potential insurance costs. This guide will help you figure out how to read registration plates and determine the year of your car. 

Where to look on a registration plate? 

Registration plates issued from September 1 2001, are made up of seven characters. When determining the age of a vehicle, you want to focus on the 3rd and 4th digits, as these numbers are the age identifiers. 

If you’re driving an older car that was issued between 1983-2001, then the position of the age identifiers will be in a different location. For these older vehicles, you need to look at the first character. For these cars, letters are used to identify the year instead of the numbers we’re used to today. 

In this timeframe, each year had its letter, starting from A for August 1 1983 – July 31 1983, working its way down for each year. Interestingly, some letters were omitted from this dating convention, such as I, O, U, and Z. This ensured that registration plates remained easy to read as these letters look very similar to other character’s you’d see. 

For example, ‘O’ looks like a ‘0’, ‘I’ looks like a ‘1’, and ‘Z’ looks slightly like a ‘2’, especially in the font used for number plates.  

The age identifiers will be in a different position for even earlier cars, such as classic cars built between 1963 to 1983. For these older vehicles, the age identifier would be at the end of a registration plate. Much like the dating convention that came after it, each year was signified by a letter in the alphabet. What makes these easier to read is that each letter indicated a full calendar year, so if an A was at the end of a number plate, you’d know it was issued in 1963. 

How to de-code modern number plates? 

Most car owners today will have a vehicle registered after September 1 2001, meaning that to work out the age of a car, they’ll need to look at the 3rd and 4th characters of the registration plate. 

Modern age identifiers are much more specific than their older counterparts, as you can use them to figure out what part of the year a car was made. When looking at the two digits together, the first indicates if the car was registered between March-August or September-February of the following year, and the second digit indicates the year. 

The number used to indicate if a vehicle was made in the second part of the year changes each decade. For example, a ‘5’ was used in the years 2001-2010, a ‘6’ was used between 2011-2022, and now a ‘7’ is used for the 2020’s.

That means a vehicle registered in April 2012 will have the numbers 12 for its 3rd and 4th characters. If registered in January 2013, then it will have the digit 62. 

Here’s a full table of the modern age identifiers to help you better understand how it works:

Year Registered March 1st to August 31st CodeSeptember 1st to February 28/29th Code

This way to determine a vehicle’s age through a number plate is designed to last until 2050/51. After this, a new convention will be needed to help drivers figure out how old their car is. 

What do the other characters on a number plate mean? 

Number plates are used for more than just telling you how old a car is. With modern number plates, the first two digits also play a massive part in helping the DVLA identify your vehicle. These letters are known as local memory tags and are codes that indicate where the car was first registered. 

The first letter denotes the region the car was registered in, and the second indicates the specific DVLA office. The letters I, Q, and Z are not used as local office identifiers due to how closely they resemble other numbers. Here’s a list of the region that each letter signifies. 

  • A – Anglia
  • B – Birmingham 
  • C – Cymru (Wales)
  • D – Deeside 
  • E – Essex
  • F – Forest and Fens 
  • G – Garden of England (Kent)
  • H – Hampshire and Dorset 
  • K – No Offical Region 
  • L – London 
  • M – Manchester and Merseyside 
  • N – North 
  • O – Oxford
  • P – Preston
  • R – Reading 
  • S – Scotland 
  • V – Severn Valley 
  • W – West of England
  • X – (Denotes Personal Export) 
  • Y – Yorkshire

The final three letters in your registration plate are entirely random and are used to ensure that each number plate is unique. This allows cars registered in the same period at the same DVLA office to be identifiable. 


Your registration plate can tell a lot about your car and reveals much about its history and age. With this information, you’ll be able to efficiently work out how old your vehicles are and others you see on the road. This can be helpful when buying a new car and allows you to estimate emissions. With this knowledge, you can use a car’s registration to your advantage.

Alexander Thomas
Alexander Thomas
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