Dick Lovett

2 min read

What Do Number Plates Actually Mean?

Number Plate

We all know what they are, we see them almost everyday but what do they mean? The latest cars will have a 20 number plate which might sound like nonsense at the moment, but by the end of this article you will know what everyone is talking about.

In the months leading up to March and September every year, car manufacturers typically launch their latest models so that when the new plates are out, their new car gets seen with the newest plate on. Launches can be anything from a major facelift or re-design to a small update which includes a few new features.

The current number plate system was introduced in September 2001 and is arranged in the format of two letters, followed by two numbers, followed by three more letters (XX11 XXX).

GB number plate example

The first two letters are known as the local memory tag. This shows where the vehicle was registered. The first letter represents the region and the second letter represents the local DVLA office. For example, a vehicle registered in Bristol will have a number plate starting with WM through to WY. (W standing for West of England).

To determine a car’s age, you need to pay attention to the first two numbers. These are the age identifiers and will tell you which six month period the car was registered in either 1st March - 31st August or 1st September to 28/29th February. 

The March - August plates are easier to remember as they are just the year. For example, WM20and the September - February = plates are the year + 50, therefore the new September 2020 to February plates will be WM70.

For example, WM69 would show that a car was registered in the West of England, Bristol between 1st September and 28/29th February. Visit the DLVA to get more information on memory tags - (Page 5)

DateCodeDateCode
March 2019 - Aug 201919Sept 2019 - Feb 202069
March 2020 - Aug 202020Setp 2020 - Feb 202170
March 2021 - Aug 202121Setp 2021 - Feb 202271
March 2022 - Aug 202222Setp 2022 - Feb 202372


The final 3 letters are completely randomly and are allocated to a dealership when the car is registered. The random nature of these letters and specific allocation to a dealership gives each vehicle a unique identity.

The new system is expected to work until September 2051 as otherwise the plates will be WM101 which won't work with current number plate spacing laws.

Leave us a comment telling us what your dream number plate would be!

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