Do you know what number plate characters stand for?

Do you know what number plate characters stand for?
The “peculiarity” of the UK number plate is most likely the reason almost two-thirds of drivers don’t actually understand them.

New research shows only 38% of 2,000 drivers asked were able to explain the 17-year-old system of letters and numbers – whereby letters represent the location of registration, and numbers denote age.

The RAC believes the modern-day licence plate can cause confusion, but reminds car buyers of the importance of being able to ‘read’ them, and determine the age of a potential purchase.

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Prior to 2000, the first letter of a licence plate indicated its age – a fact not known by as many as 67% of drivers in this survey.

The art of ‘reading’ number plates appears to have been particularly lost on younger drivers. A fifth of those aged between 17 and 25 admitted they had no idea the plates carried any information.

As RAC spokesman Rod Dennis points out, it is likely the “peculiarity” of the letters and numbers combination which causes confusion.

“While the location where a car was first registered is likely to be of little interest to the average car buyer, the age most certainly should be – so it’s revealing that so many drivers appear not to understand what the digits on a modern number plate mean,” he said.

“It’s much easier to tell the age of the car when it is registered between March and August – when the numerals indicate the year exactly, such as 16 for 2016, 17 for 2017 and so on – than it is if it is registered from September to February. In the latter case, 66 can mean either late 2016 or, confusingly, early 2017.

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Men and women it seem have a largely similar ability to read post-2000 plates, with around 65% of each gender being able to correctly calculate a car’s age from its registration alone.

Only a third of women, though – compared to two-thirds of men – could identify a 1994 model based on the old letter-based system.

Since April 1, the amount of vehicle excise duty (VED) payable on all new, non-zero-emissions cars has gone up. The increase in VED affects all new cars – barring those which don’t pollute – requiring them to supply an annual flat rate charge. 

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.