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Suffix Style Number Plates

What are suffix style number plates? 

First introduced in 1963, suffix style number plates revealed the age of a vehicle as the last letter of the plate acted as the “suffix” or “age identifier” - as opposed to dateless number plates, which do not carry this age identifier and therefore hide the true age of a vehicle. The last suffix letter used was “Y” and was issued on 1st August 1982, when the registration system had to be changed yet again to accommodate more vehicle users – the suffix system had simply run out of letters in the alphabet and had to be replaced by the prefix system.

The structure of suffix number plates never changed and typically they displayed this type of sequence: WXY 123 F (or Letter, Letter, Letter), (space) followed by up to 3 numbers, followed by another Letter, the age identifier. This particular number shows a suffix from 1967 (F) and the first 3 letters show the car was first registered in Bangor in Wales.

The first of these two letters is a mnemonic signifying the name of the overall region where the vehicle’s registration office is located. For example, the letter “A” is used as the first letter to stand for all registrations that were issued by the three vehicle offices situated in the region of East Anglia.

The suffix later gained a two-digit age identifier, which changed twice per year, namely in March and September. This code represents either the last two digits of the year of registration itself if issued between the months of March and August (for example "10" for vehicle registrations that were issued between 1st March and 31st August 2010), or they have 50 added to that code if they were issued between the months of September and February the following year (for example "60" stands for registrations issued between 1st September 2010 and 28th February 2011).

Therefore, suffix number plates typically display a sequence of three letters followed by one, two, or three letters, which in turn are followed by a one, two, or three digit number code with a year-letter age identifier at the very end. Another example of suffix number plate registrations would be CGO ***X which was issued in London in 1981.

Suffix number plate registration legislation was passed because suffix number plates provided far greater protection to vehicle owners, since the age of a vehicle is shown on the number plate it carries, thus telling a prospective buyer for example, if a vehicle car is new, second hand or has passed through many more hands in a long life.

With the introduction of new age identifier legislation pertaining to registration the procedure of transfers changed for good. Dealers offering new number plates must adhere to current legislation and therefore the age of the vehicle must be shown correctly by the appropriate suffix or age identifier. While it is perfectly legal to display a number plate with a suffix that represents an older age identifier than the vehicle, it is not permitted to display a suffix that is newer than the vehicle. In theory, a buyer looking at a vehicle in a showroom or in a private sale should be able to determine the first year of registration from the age identifier without having to do further investigation into the age of the vehicle.

It is also possible to get online valuations for suffix number plates and typically such valuations should come with certification. Obtaining a certificate of valuation for a suffix or indeed any other number plate is a good idea for a variety of purposes, such as insurance or divorce where the value of assets needs to be determined, for probate and for private sales of vehicles, especially, if the number plate is a cherished, private or personalised number plate and worth a great deal of money.

Suffix number plates can represent a great alternative to dateless, cherished or private number plates. Not all letters of the alphabet were used though: the suffix registration system excluded the letters I, O, Q, U and Z. Letters 'I' and 'Z' were only used for Northern Ireland, while the letter 'O' was deemed to resemble zero too closely. The letter 'Q' was reserved for vehicle registrations where the date of manufacture of the vehicle was in doubt. The letter 'U' resembled the letter 'V' far too much and was therefore not issued.

Thanks to the format of suffix number plates which are fronted by three letters, these number plates can offer some sought after varieties, such as number plates that spell short names like TOM or PAT for example.

Dealers know that suffix number plates offer good opportunities for investment as well as customer enjoyment and can provide a large number of great options at often far cheaper prices than private or cherished number plates would fetch.

Useful Links

You will find here a few notes and forms required for the procedure to transfer a vehicle registration.

Registration marks that show no reference to the very first registration date of a vehicle.

Plates where last letter reveals the age of a vehicle.

Widely available and often less costly than dateless registrations.

An interesting opportunity to investment in some sought after number and letter combinations.

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