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Prefix Number Plates


If you have considered getting a private number plate for your car, it's important to understand how different plates are formatted and what the different numbers and letters mean.


All private number plates are designed using numerical and digital characters in different formats. Each has been introduced at different times over the past 118 years by the DVLA. 


The original vehicle number plates were issued in 1903 and followed a format of 2 or 3 letters, followed by any number from 1 to 9999. 


BAZ 344



As these plates were the original registrations issued by the DVLA, they have become highly desirable among drivers that wish to stamp their own personality and individuality on their vehicle. The plates contain a format that gives them a ‘dateless’ quality, therefore are even more popular among car collectors and dealers. 


Dateless plates can even come in reverse format order, with numbers followed by letters.


63 RRY



Prefix style number plates


Following dateless number plates, prefix style plates began life in 1983 and were issued  until 2001 where they were replaced by the current style of plate. 


The format of prefix plates starts with a letter that indicates the year, followed by 1 to 3 numbers. After a space, a further 3 letters are added to complete the plate.


Here are some examples of prefix style private number plates:







The first letter of the plate, or the prefix, corresponds to a year. As these plates were first issued in 1983, that year is represented by the letter A.


Following years follow letters through the alphabet. 


B = 1984

D = 1986 

E = 1987


The number year correlation continued until the letter R, then subsequent letters were issued in 6-month intervals. 


S = Aug 1998 - Feb 1999

T = March 1999 - July 1999

W = March 2000 - July 2000

Y = March 2001 to July 2001


Some letters are not used for prefix style plates to avoid confusion with numbers. Therefore I, O, and Z are not used, and Q is reserved for cars with an unknown history.


While the preceding letter will show when a number plate was issued, the remaining letter will show you where it originated. All car number plates have letters that are used as area codes to identify where the registration was first issued. On prefix plates, these area codes are designated with the last 22 letters on the number plate. 


On this private prefix style registration plate, the last 2 letters are RA, which corresponds to Nottingham. 




On this registration, the last 22 letters AN show that the plate originated in Reading. 





Prefix style plates can be formatted in a number of combinations to reflect your name, job, or something you love. e.g. your favourite sport. Swiftreg has millions of private plates available. Search by using the Swiftreg search engine today!


Simply enter the name, word or phrase that you want and hundreds of available options will be presented. Your new private number plate can be purchased directly from our website and we can help you to complete all the official government forms needed to transfer or assign the plate to your vehicle.

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