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What will the 2021 UK number plate be?

  • Current system in place since September 2001
  • New 21-plate coming March 2020
  • 2020 decade will have 2s and 7s in the number plate
  • 2030 will have 3s and 8s
  • You cannot tamper with registration plate
  • First two letters represent UK regions
  • New ‘green’ plates offered for zero-emissions cars

You’ll know that in the UK number plates change in the spring and in the autumn – on 1st March and 1st September – but do you know what the numbers and letters in the reg plates mean and what the numbers will be over the next 10 years? In this post you will find out.

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The current format of licence plates for new car registrations came into force in 2001. The number plate is divided into three sections. From left to right these are:

  • Two letters that represent the region the car was registered
  • Two numbers that represent when the car was registered
  • A set of three letters that are randomly generated

The March number plates are the year, while the September plates are the year plus 50. So, from 1st March 2021 new cars will have 21 in their number plate, while new car registrations from 1st September will have 71 reg plates.

You can see how this will pan out until 2029 in the table below:

Year of car registration  Plate from March-onwards Plate from September-onwards
2020 20 70
2021 21 71
2022 22 72
2023 23 73
2024 24 74
2025 25 75
2026 26 76
2027 27 77
2028 28 78
2029 29 79

What will new car reg plates look like in 2030? You will see 30-plate cars from 1st March and then 80-plate cars from 1st September.

If you’re interested in a 21-plate car now, make sure you check out our latest new car deals.

Remember, you cannot swap the letters and numbers around on your car’s reg plate and you cannot alter the plate to make them hard to read. If you do so you could be fined up to £1000 and the car will fail its MOT test if you drive it with incorrectly displayed number plates.

The DVLA calls the first two letters that represent the region where the car was registered the ‘Memory Tags’. The first letter represents the region, the second letter identifies which postal area within the region. You can see where these memory tags represent in the table below.

Letter Region DLVA memory tag identifier
A Anglia AA-AY
B Birmingham BA-BY
C Cymru CA-CY
D Deeside to Shrewsbury DA-DY
E Essex EA-EY
F Forest & Fens FA-FY
G Garden of England GA-GY
H Hampshire & Dorset HA-HY (HW is used exclusively for the Isle of White)
K Borehamwood-Northampton KA-KY
L London LA-LY
M Manchester & Merseyside MA-MY (MN + MAN reserved for the Isle of Man)
N North NA-NY
O Oxford OA-OY
P Preston PA-PY
R Reading RA-RY
S Scotland SA-SY
V Severn Valley VA-VY
W West of England WA-WY
Y Yorkshire YA-YB

The letters I, Q or Z are not used in memory tags identifiers. Z is only used as a random letter at the end of a number plate.

Why have a number plate?

Vehicle number plates are a way of identifying all vehicles and form part of the process that register and tax vehicles. The number plate stays with the car and not its owner until the car is destroyed or is exported – although an owner can transfer it to another vehicle.

Number plate specification

For vehicles made after 1 January 1973, the front number plate must have a white background while the rear number plate at the rear must have a yellow background.

There are strict rules concerning the specification of the letters and numbers in the reg plate.

These include:

  • Characters must be 79mm tall
  • Characters be 50mm wide (except the number 1 or letter I)
  • The thickness of the character stroke must be 14mm
  • The space between characters must be 11mm
  • The space between the age identifier and the random letters must be 33mm
  • The margins at the top, bottom and side must be 11mm
  • The vertical space between the age identifier and the random numbers must be 19mm
  • The font used in the number plate has been in use since 2001 and is called the Charles Wright font.

As of 8th of December 2020, if you buy a new fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell car you can also have your car fitted with a so-called ‘green number plate’. These have a green flash on the left-hand side of the reg plate to indicate the car’s zero tailpipe emission credentials. However, you can opt-out of this if you’d prefer to stick with the regular reg-plate design.

What is a green number plate?

As of 8th of December 2020, if you buy a new fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell car you can also have your car fitted with a so-called ‘green number plate’. These have a green flash on the left-hand side of the reg plate to indicate the car’s zero tailpipe emission credentials.

You can opt-out of having a green flash on your plate if it’s not to your taste, but dealers are likely to fit them as standard on newly-sold electric cars. At the moment, they’re only a cosmetic item rather than allowing any certain EV privileges.

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