Irish Number Plates
Northern Ireland has been using the vehicle registration system first introduced for the United Kingdom of Britain in 1903, although a recent addition is the optional EU format that displays the "BG" country code alongside the regular registration. Some unofficial side badges like "IRL" or "NI" are occasionally on display, too.
The 1903 vehicle registration system displays a two-letter county and city code featuring the letters "I" and "Z" – the two letters not permitted for usage in mainland Britain. The letters "I" and "Z" are only used for Northern Ireland's vehicle registrations.
Since Northern Ireland initially ran a system that was parallel with mainland Britain's, the Irish number plates originally used codes that ran from 1 to 9999. When this number combination was completed, another code was allocated. All possible codes had been used by 1957, which required reversed sequences to be issued. County Antrim was the first county to issue such in January 1958, the very first being the Irish number plate displaying "1 IA".
Irish number plates represent another interesting investment opportunity in that the reversed number sequences were also completed within a short space of time, creating some sought after number and letter combinations for today's buyers.
In January 1966 Northern Ireland finally introduced the current "AXX 1234" format. In this combination "XX" stands for the county code and "A" is a serial letter. Such a format permits a far greater capacity and each county adopted the new system, when they ran out of reversed sequences. County Londonderry was the last county do so in October 1973, issuing an Irish number plate with the sequence "AIW 1".
Most online dealers have a system that allows customers to type in their wish-combination and the system will check, if such a letter and number combination exists and if it is for sale.
In November 1985 Northern Ireland's DVA offices (Driver and Vehicle Agency) decided to withhold the first 100 numbers of each series and created thus cherished registrations for investors to enjoy. Following on from this decision, Irish number plates issued from April 1989 onwards also saw the numbers 101-999 withheld, creating another batch of cherished registrations.
Eventually, multiples of "1000" and "1111" (called "four-of-a-kind") enjoyed cherished registration status thanks to DVA's decision to withhold these numbers in Northern Ireland. Each new series finishes with "9998" and jumps to the next letter and number combination in that series.
The code "QNI" stands for vehicles of indeterminate age, such as self-build kit cars for example.
Irish number plates thus have not only the appeal of cherished and universally dateless registrations; they are also attractive because they display easily recognisable county identifiers such as county codes AZ for Belfast or DZ and IA for Antrim. Belfast offers several county codes for collectors to search for: GZ, CZ, EZ and FZ for example all stand for Belfast.
Just as the motor industry in mainland UK has been struggling to cope with a glut of sales in spring and a mere trickle of sales from the summer to the remainder of the year, Ireland has also started to rethink the way in which registrations are issued, particularly now that the new "13-series" is out amid fears superstitious customers might shun such registrations. Instead of bearing the registration number "13" Irish vehicles registered during the first half of 2013 will display the numbers "131". Vehicles registered in the second half of 2013 will show "132" on their Irish number plates.
Since a bi-annual registration system has been very effective in Britain and helped motorists to more accurately assess the age of a vehicle, Ireland is also introducing such a system. Currently, nearly 70% of new vehicle sales take place between January and April, causing some considerable problems for dealerships during the latter part of the year, when sales dwindle away.
Customers with older vehicles on the other hand will be happy to look for current and older Northern Ireland number plates. It is perfectly legal to transfer Irish number plates onto vehicles used in England, Wales and Scotland, thus hiding the actual age of the vehicle.
Irish number plates are now issued by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency or DVLA, Swansea, England, displaying different letter combinations to the ones in England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland's number plates will always carry the letters "I" or "Z" in their letter combinations without displaying any age identifier.
Therefore, using Northern Irish number plates on older vehicles is a cost-effective way of squeezing a little more life out of an investment. Irish number plates are widely available online and can be bought for as little as £40.00 + Transfer Fee + plus VAT.
Number plates from Eire, however, cannot be used on United Kingdom registered vehicles. Eire or Ireland is a sovereign European country, while Northern Ireland forms part of the United Kingdom of Britain.