Everything you need to know about number plates

Find out everything you need to know about standard and private number plates in AXA’s helpful guide.

Motoring advice

10 February 2022

Car number plates; all cars have one, but what do they actually mean? The combination of numbers and letters is actually pretty important. In this article, we’ll go through:

What are the rules on number plates in the UK?

The rules for both personalised number plates and new number plates are pretty much the same. You’ll need to check that the number plate has been registered to the car it’s attached to as they’re used to identify and tax the vehicle. It’s pretty straightforward though. When you buy the vehicle, the number plate comes with it. The only exception to this is when the previous owner wants to keep a personalised number plate. In this situation, you’ll need to make sure the vehicle is registered with a new number plate in its place.

You’ll need to make sure that the number plate is clearly visible too. We’re all guilty of letting our cars get a bit dirty from time to time. But if there’s a lot of mud and dirt covering the number plate, you’ll need to get it cleaned. Or you could end up with a fine of up to £1,000.

There are a few more rules you should be aware of on the government website too. It’s likely that your number plate will meet these, but always make sure that it:

  • is made from a reflective material
  • displays black characters on a white background (front plate)
  • displays black characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
  • doesn’t have a background pattern
  • is marked to show who supplied the number plate
  • is marked with a British Standard number

What do the numbers and letters mean on a number plate?

Each number plate is unique. Those random sets of numbers and letters make a great road-trip anagram game, but they actually hold a lot of important information about the vehicle.

The first two letters detail where the car was registered. The following two numbers show when the car was registered. And those last three letters are randomly generated.

Each year there’s a new batch of number plates registered and 2022 is no different. From 1st March, all new cars will have 22 in their number plate, and from 1st September they will have 72.

How to buy and register a private number plate

Maybe you’ve already your dream car, or just want something a little more “you”. If that’s the case, a personalised number plate could be just what you’re after as they can set you apart from the crowd. Lots of people choose a plate that means something to them – for example their birth year or initials.

Getting a private number plate isn’t too difficult. They are sold either directly through the DVLA, or there’s a range of third-party dealer websites you can use.

What do I need to do after I get a private number plate?

Firstly, you should inform the DVLA that you plan to change the plates on your car. You just need to let them know the old and new number plates.

You’ll also need to let your car insurance provider know that you’ve changed your number plate. You should do this before you put the new plate on your car.

Does a private number plate affect my insurance?

A private number plate shouldn’t affect your car insurance, but it’s always best to check with your insurance provider before you get it.

If you do get one, you need to tell your insurance provider. You should be able to do this when you first get a quote, provided the number plate can be matched to your car. If you change your number plate during your policy, you’ll just need to let your insurance provider know.

Knowing your number plates

We hope you’ve found this information useful. Whether you’re getting a new car, or want to add a little personalisation to your current one, we hope you’re now clued up on everything you need to know about number plates.

And, if you’re in the market for car insurance, why not take a look at AXA Car Insurance?