Number plate changes from September 2021

Understanding classic car number plates
It is relatively straightforward with the lettering giving clues to both the location of the registration of the plate and the year. Modern plates often leave many puzzled so alongside we have an explanation of modern number plates together with news of car registration and number plate changes made in 2021.

Changes in September 2021
The September number plate changes have been made to make it easier for police to scan number plates using ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras. The changes to number plates launched at the start of September 2021 include some features which make it easier for police to scan the plate.

Displaying number plates
See the DVLA rukes guide on the GOV.UK website. More & INF104

Flags, symbols and identifiers
Driving outside the UK

See the DVLA rukes guide on the GOV.UK website. More

Getting number plates made up
See the DVLA guide on the GOV.UK website. More

Buy a personalised registration number
You can buy a personalised registration for your number plates from DVLA online or at auction. Search online to see which numbers are available and how much they cost.

Redesigned number plates which display a ‘UK’ under a Union flag on the left-hand side of the number plate so they could be used to drive on the Continent.

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Understandig modern number plates

First two letters
They show where the car was first registered. In "DVLA speak" they are called a ‘memory tag as a location identifier for where the car is first registered. Even though the system is now centralised with DVLA, dealers still tend to be allocated registration numbers that reflect their traditional area code - for example if you are buying a new car from a London dealership, you will almost certainly be allocated a number plate starting with an L. Other regions of England have their own letter codes: cars registered in Yorkshire start with the letter Y, in Hampshire start with an H, and so on. If you’re buying a new car in Scotland, it will almost certainly start with an S. For cars registered in Wales, it will start with a C for Cymru.

Age identifier
The numbers show in which six-month period the car was first registered. The numbers change every six months, in March and September. The March codes are easy to remember as they follow the year of registration - so a car registered between March and August in 2021 will have the number 21, a car that was registered between March and August 2005 has the number 05, and so on. For s car registered between September and February it is slightly more complicated. The numeric code equals the year (as of September) plus 50. So a car registered from September 2021 until February 2022 will have the number 71 (= 21 + 50). A car registered in September 2006 – February 2007 has the number 56 (=06 + 50), and so on. In theory, this system will run until we get to February 2051 unless a future UK Government changes it before then.

Random letters are the last three letters on the plate
The last three letters are officially random. In practice, dealerships are allocated batches of registration numbers, so your local dealer will probably have a run of consecutive numbers. When they have used up all of that allocation, they will be assigned another batch. So it’s not technically random, but close nonetheless. The letters I and Q are not used because they can be confused with 1 and 0 or O, and the DVLA withholds any combinations that may be considered offensive or sweary – they don't give any examples but you can use your imagination.

Personalised number plates
They are a whole different story and are not covered here, but again the DVLA will censor anything it considers inappropriate or offens

Differnt fonts and spacing on a number plate
It is illegal to use different fonts or to space the letters in any way other than illustrated above, despite the fact that thousands of car owners do it. It is also illegal to alter the digits or strategically use mounting screws to make the plates look like they read something different. Again, this is poorly enforced and the fines are paltry.
Every year when new number plates are registered in March and September in the UK part of the format of the plate changes. In 2021 cars registered between 1st March 2021 – 31st August 2021 were issued with ‘21’ number plates and then new car registrations between 1st September 2021 – 28th February 2022 will get ‘71’ plates. What is
different this year is that the technical standard for all new number plates registered after 1st September 2021 has been revised.

The ‘71’ plates will replace the old BS AU 145d standard which has been in use since September 2001 and instead we will have BS AU 145e to meet the new British Standard for Retroreflective Number Plates. The main benefit of the new 145e standard plates is that they are more durable. The plates are made from tougher material and need to pass 10 tests – including the newly added abrasion test, which checks if the number plates can withstand damage from debris like road salt and dirt.

The new number plates can only display solid black lettering. Two-tone number plates that used different shades to create a 3D or 4D effect have been banned. The lettering can still be Perspex or acrylic lettering, provided it meets all other requirements. They must, however, be black and cannot have different colour sides. This will help make plates more readable for the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. The DVLA use ANPR cameras to catch lawbreakers and detect offenders like unlicensed vehicles. The new number plates will also have to include the supplier’s business name and postcode, along with the name of the number plate manufacturer and display the new standard, BS AU 145e.

Changes to historic black and silver number plates
From 1st January 2021 the DVLA banned all vehicles manufactured on or after 1st January 1980 from displaying the historic black and silver number plates, reducing options to the modern white/yellow reflective plates only. According to the regulations, only vehicles manufactured before 1st January 1980 and those registered with the ‘historic vehicle’ tax class can use the black and silver plates. Vehicles older than 40 years are eligible to be classed under the ‘historic vehicle’ tax group so they are then exempt from vehicle excise duty or road tax. Many classic car owners have been keen to get historic black and silver number plates for the car - some to restore the style of plate their classic car would have had when new but other owners have sought athat style of plate for car built in the mid 1970s and later presumably to gain the classic car look.

Changes to the use of the GB flag in Europe
Prior to Brexit, the British number plates featured a circle of EU stars with the letters ‘GB’ underneath. They could be used to travel and drive abroad as well.
On 31st January 2021, a year after Brexit, transport secretary Grant Shapps unveiled the redesigned number plates which displayed ‘GB’ for Great Britain under a Union flag on the left-hand side of the number plates so they could be used to drive on the Continent. Shortly after a re-design was announced replacing the ‘GB’ designation which has been in use for the past 111 years, with the letters ‘UK’ to include Northern Ireland. The new registration plates design comes into effect from 28th September 2021.

new ‘UK’ sticker or magnet can be easily purchased online, in post offices and in garages to mke that change, or you could apply for new UK number plates to comply with the latest changes.

From 1st January 2021, the EU flag identifier is not permitted on UK number plates.