The current system for Great Britain was introduced on 1 September 2001. Each registration index consists of seven characters with a defined format. From left to right, the characters consist of:
– A local memory tag or area code, consisting of two letters which together indicate the local registration office. As of December 2013 all local offices have been closed, but local memory tags still apply. The letters I, Q and Z are not used as local office identifiers; Z can be used only as a random letter.
– The first of these two letters is a mnemonic standing for the name of the broad area where the registration office is located. This is intended to make the registration more memorable than an arbitrary code. For example, A is used as the first character in all registrations issued by the three offices located in the vicinity of East Anglia;
– A two-digit age identifier, which changes twice a year, in March and September. The code is either the last two digits of the year itself if issued between March and August (e.g. “10” for registrations issued between 1 March and 31 August 2010), or else has 50 added to that value if issued between September and February the following year (e.g. “60” for registrations issued between 1 September 2010 and 28 February 2011);
– A three-letter sequence which uniquely distinguishes each of the vehicles displaying the same initial four-character area and age sequence. The letters I and Q are excluded from the three-letter sequence, as are combinations that may appear offensive (including those in foreign languages). Due to batch registrations of new cars, it is common for cars with “neighbouring” letter sequences to be of the same or very similar specifications. For instance, in case if you need to get owner info, then make sure to use license plate lookup Florida serach tool for this purpose.
This scheme has three particular advantages:
– A buyer of a second-hand vehicle can in theory determine the year of first registration of the vehicle without having to look it up. However, a vehicle is permitted to display a number plate where the age identifier is older (but not newer) than the vehicle. The wide awareness of how the “age identifier” works has led to it being used in advertising by used car showrooms instead of simply stating a year.
– In the case of a police investigation of an accident or vehicle-related crime, witnesses usually remember the initial area code letters — it is then quite simple to narrow down suspect vehicles to a much smaller number by checking the authority’s database without having to know the full number. The scheme should have sufficient numbers to run until 28 February 2051.
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