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Prefix Number Plates - What They Are and How to Identify Them


Want to learn more about prefix number plates? This is the guide for you. Here, you’ll learn what prefix registrations are, how to identify them, and the years they were used.


Other topics on this page include:

  • When were prefix number plates replaced?
  • Why was the registration prefix system replaced?
  • A complete chart of prefix number plate years and their letters.


This guide to prefix number plates is one of four car registration systems. Click the links to learn more about suffix number plates, dateless number plates, and new style registrations, 


Or, check out our complete car registration years chart for a deep dive into all car registration systems in the UK.


What is a Prefix Number Plate?



A prefix number plate is a style of car registration that was used in the UK between August 1983 and July 2001. It is one of four number plate registration systems used in the UK and uses a letter at the beginning of the plate to indicate a car’s year of registration.


Each plate is split into three sections:


  • The first letter is the age identifier. For instance, the letter A means a car was registered between August 1983 and July 1984.
  • The next three characters are random numbers used to differentiate the car from other vehicles registered in that time frame.
  • The final three letters, usually the final two, are the area code. For example, the letter AN means the car was registered in Reading. 


What Year Are Prefix Registrations From?


Prefix registrations were first introduced in August 1983. It first used the letter A, and moved through the alphabet for each subsequent year until finishing with the letter Y in 2001.


To see the full list of prefix letters and their age identifiers, check out the chart below:

Suffix Letter

Registration period


From August 1983 to July 1984


From August 1984 to July 1985


From August 1985 to July 1986


From August 1986 to July 1987


From August 1987 to July 1988


From August 1988 to July 1989


From August 1989 to July 1990


From August 1990 to July 1991


From August 1991 to July 1992


From August 1992 to July 1993


From August 1993 to July 1994


From August 1994 to July 1995


From August 1995 to July 1996


From August 1996 to July 1997


From August 1997 to July 1998


From August 1998 to February 1999


From March 1999 to July 1999


From August 1999 to February 2000


From March 2000 to July 2000


From August 2000 to February 2001


From March 2001 to July 2001

Why Are Some Prefix Letters Not Used?


You may have noticed in the chart that some letters of the alphabet are missing from the prefix number plate system. But why is this the case?


  • The letter I (i) was reserved for Northern Ireland.
  • The letter Z was also reserved for Northern Ireland.
  • The letter O was omitted as it was too close to the number 0.
  • The letter U was omitted as it could be confused with the letter V.
  • The letter Q was omitted but was used in special cases to register vehicles with unknown manufacturing dates.


When Were Prefix Number Plates Issued?


Prefix Registration number plates were first introduced in August 1983 to replace the old Suffix number plate system.


Registration prefix plates were issued twice a year from August 1984. Previously, there was significant demand every year on the 1st of August, which caused a major strain on the motor industry.


By introducing new plates twice a year, this removed the bottleneck and strain on registration offices. However, this led to available prefix registration number plates being used up quickly, leading to their replacement by the new style registration system in 2001.


Can You Use Prefix Number Plates on Any Car?


It’s possible to move number plates from car to car, but is this possible for prefix registration plates?


The short answer is no, you cannot put prefix registration plates on any car.


Prefix registration plates can’t be used on any vehicles registered before August 1983. It’s illegal to make a car look younger than it is. 


Since most cars are made after this date, you’ll likely be able to add a private prefix registration plate to your vehicle. 

Get Your Private Prefix Registration Plates With SwiftReg


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 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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