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Prefix Style Number Plates

Prefix style number plates issued between 1983 and 2001 are a very popular choice; they are widely available and often less costly than dateless (issued from 1903 to 1963) or suffix style number plates (issued from 1963 to 1983).

A prefix number plate can be memorable, too – DI2 SAM for example can easily be remembered and if the vehicle owner is called Samuel or Samantha, so much the better!

Prefix number plates came into use because the suffix style registration system had reached the letter “Y” by 1982. From the following year onwards, number plate sequences were reversed again starting once more with the letter “A” as the year letter as a prefix to the number code followed by the letters of the registration. The year identifier is therefore always the first letter of the registration.

The number 1 to 20 were withheld for the DVLA’s select registration sales scheme, but otherwise the range available for sale included A21 AAA to Y999 YYY. From 1983 onwards the letter “Q” came into usage, but only on a limited scale for vehicles on indeterminable age and origin, such as self-build kit cars or substantial rebuilds from parts. The letters “I”, “Z” and “O” were never used as year identifiers.

The year letter “A” stands for a 1st August 1983 to 31st July 1984 registration, followed by letter “B” for a registration issued between 1st August 1984 and 31st July 1985 and so forth until the late 1990s, when the range of available numbers started to run out again and bi-annual changes in registration letters were introduced for March and September.

Thus, the letter “S” signifies a registration issued between 1st August 1998 and 28th February 1999, the year letter “T” stands for registrations issued between 1st March 1999 and 31st August 1999 and so forth. The final year letter issued in this sequence is the letter “Y”, signifying a registration issued between 1st March 2001 and 31st August 2001.

Many online dealerships sell prefix number plates, including the DVLA’s own website, where the search from their 30 million-strong database can be extremely time-consuming. If not buying from the DVLA, buyers should be aware of certain pitfalls. Prefix number plates – or indeed any other style of number plates – that spell out names are very popular but often websites display number plates where the spacing is wrong, the incorrect typeface is used or where screw caps are shown in certain positions that present digits and letters as if they were spelling out a word. When in doubt, buyers should check on the DVLA’s own website what is legal and what is not.

Hidden costs can be another pitfall. There might be hefty after-sales administration fees relating to the purchase of the certificate or dealers might force buyers to purchase more expensive acrylic plates, both practices flying in the face of the originally “cheap” price advertised online.

Prefix number plates are also easier to remember, as they do not display as many digits and letters as current style number plates – “A1 ABC” or “E13 BUG” are short and sweet – they will stay in the mind quite easily.

Prices vary greatly. If prefix number plates spell out a word like “K44 BUG” for example, the price can be £1,000.00 plus VAT, as such number plates are very appealing and therefore popular. Something a little less obvious such as “V29 ARM” will cost around £300.00 plus VAT. Prices for an even more popular letter and digit combination such as “E3 MUM” for example can easily reach £1,500.00 and more, while the longer and therefore less popular version “G141 MUM” will cost considerably less at £600.00.

Just like suffix style number plates, prefix number plates do carry an age identifier, namely the above mentioned year letter, however, prefix number plates issued prior to 30th July 1998 cover an entire year, so the age of a vehicle is not shown as “accurately” as it would be under the bi-annual registration system.

Thanks to a large number of prefix number plates being available, it is quite easy to find great value for money pre-used registrations that are not just appealing and personal in style but also relatively cheap when compared to actual “private” or “personalised” number plates. 

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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