There was a time when what number plate you had dictated whether you had a brand new car or not – and therefore whether you were cool or the richest guy in the street.

Car registrations changed once a year on August 1 and it was the biggest day for the car retail industry with new cars flying off the forecourt.

One of the problems was that it meant that for the two-three months leading up to August 1, no-one would buy a new car as they would soon be shown to have an ‘old’ car, just by looking at the final letter on the plate.

As a kid, we would go around on August 1 yelling when we saw a new car with the new letter. I’m sure it made the driver feel big.

But now it seems almost impossible to understand what the registration actually means and how old a car is and that’s pretty important information when you are looking at buying a secondhand car – or just sussing out how wealthy your neighbor really is.

And it turns out it is pretty easy to understand after all. The bureaucrats made it more complex back in 1983, forgot to tell anyone what it all meant, but here is your simple guide to car registration plates.

· The first two letters are a Local Memory Tag which show where the vehicle was registered, the first representing the region and the second a local Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency office.

· The two numbers in the middle are the Age Identifier. New cars are now registered twice a year, in March to August or September to February.

The age identifier changes on March 1 or September 1. The table below shows how the age identifier changes over the life of the current format plate.

So a 2005/6 car is 05 from March to August and 55 from September to February.

· The final three numbers are random to give the car its unique identity.

Age Identifier Numbers (with thanks to the AA)

Year

1 March to

end August

1 September to

end February

2001/02

51

2002/03

02

52

2003/04

03

53

2004/05

04

54

2005/06

05

55

2006/07

06

56

2007/08

07

57

2008/09

08

58

2009/10

09

59

2010/11

10

60

2011/12

11

61

2012/13

12

62

2013/14

13

63

2014/15

14

64

2015/16

15

65

2016/17

16

66

2017/18

17

67

2018/19

18

68

2019/20

19

69

2020/21

20

70

2021/22

21

71

2022/23

and so on

until 50/00

in 2050/51

Do your plates meet the rules?

All new number plates must display the new mandatory front, but existing plates don’t need to be changed if they are similar. Customised plates with stylized letters or fixing bolts that change the appearance of the numbers or letters must be changed.

Newspress

Personalised number plates are sold through DVLA auctions and don’t follow the same rules as regular plates.

Number Plate Quick Facts

· The first plate issued was DY1 in Hastings on November 23 1903.

· The mark A1 was issued in London later.

· The addition of a year suffix begain between 1963 and 1965.

· The registration year ran from January 1 to December 31 until 1967 when it moved to August.

Read more from Geoff Sutton