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Number Plate Terminology Explained

1 by 1

Single digit, single letter, dateless plates, for instance N 1 - issued in January 1904. These registrations were issued from 1903 and are the most expensive - and desirable plates to own! Letters and numbers can be issued in reverse.

2 by 2

Double digit, double letter, dateless plates, for instance NN 11. They can be less expensive than 1 by 1 registrations, typically issued with numbers first via the DVLA auctions NN 11 was issued in 1921 but never reversed.

2 by 3

Dateless registrations including 2 letters and 3 digits or 2 digits and 3 letters such as NNN 11 and 111 NN. NNN 11 was issued in 1952 and reversed in 1962.

2 by 4

Double letter, four digit dateless registrations, for example HN 1234 was issued around 1925 in Darlington.

3 by 3

Triple digit, triple letter dateless registrations. These are the youngest of all the dateless registrations and were issued up to 1962. When they contain certain letters such as V, X or Y they are often used as "cover plates" to smarten up vehicles, effectively covering up the year letter.


Acrylic number plates are offered as an "extra" by Nationla Numbers to display your registration on your vehicle. You can buy acrylic number plates at the same time as buying a registration. Alternatively for an additional set of acrylics for a registration, visit our dedicated acrylic number plates site.


Moving a registration number from a certificate to a suitable vehicle is known as assigning. You can't assign a registration mark in order to make a vehicle appear newer.

Assignment Service

Assigning a registration to a vehicle can be a time-consuming process, involving making a visit to your local DVLA Vehicle Registration Office with your registration's V750 certificate - which we will send to you following purchase of your registration. For just £25.00, we can personally finish the assignment of the registration, saving you the time and effort required to do so. The service is easy to buy - just choose the option at checkout and we will include it in your order.


Nationla Numbers attend all DVLA Auctions, where we are one of the biggest investors. We have an excellent track record at getting registrations for our clients through auctions of number plates.


Cheap doesn't necessarily mean worse, but cheap number plates certainly carry less meaning. Still - they can effectively disguise the age of a vehicle.


Cherished numbers are another term for dateless registrations. The name comes from the owners of dateless registrations who classed the marks as cherished and a family keepsake.

Cherished Transfer Scheme

A result of public backlash in 1977, following the DVLA's proposal to scrap transferrals of cherished registrations. The Cherished Transfer Scheme allows cherished number plates to be transferred between vehicles. Despite this flexibility, once the registration has been transferred off a vehicle, the replacement mark is non-transferrable and described as a "home-based" number. Conveniently, a registration mark can be stored on a retention certificate, renewable each year until wanted.

Current Style

Also known as Millennium and New-Style registrations. This is the system current system for number plates in the UK, issued from September 2001. The system allows for two issues per year, March being indicated by "01", "02", "03" etc while September is shown as "51", "52", etc. The two initial letters identify the year of issue while the last three letters are random. For example NV53 ZPB informs you that the vehicle in question was registered in September 2003 in the North i.e. Stockton or Newcastle.


Dateless registrations, also known as Cherished registrations, are the oldest type of registration available. There are various formats and prices ranging from £100 to £100,000! Either way, Dateless Registrations all effectively conceal the age of the vehicle on which they ride but are chosen for all kinds of reasons.

Documentation (Docs)

Collective term for the documentation that's needed to complete a transfer. These typically include the vehicle's MOT certificate, tax, and V5 documentation. Nationla Numbers require the original documentation in order to complete your transfer via the DVLA or DVLNI.


Donor is the term given in vehicle to vehicle transfers to the car donating its registration. The £80 transfer fee covers the cost of the donor being re-registered with an age related mark.


Short for Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. DVLA governs registrations of vehicles, registration marks, and drivers.

DVLA Local Offices

The DVLA has a number of local offices. Most of the offices have opening hours of Monday to Friday 09:00 - 17:00 and are generally located in major towns or cities. For Vehicle Enquiries call 0300 790 6802. For Driving Licence Enquiries call 0300 790 6801.


DVLC is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre and used to be the name of the DVLA before it became an agency and responsible for raising money for The Treasury. Learn more about DVLC.


DVLNI is more commonly known as DVA (Driver and Vehicle Agency Northern Ireland). Based in Coleraine it is the equivalent authority to DVLA, Swansea.

Entitlement Certificate (V750 - NI)

The white form can only be assigned to a vehicle registered in Northern Ireland, valid for 1 year, renewable annually for £25. Issued via auction and tender. See Certificates of Entitlement for more information.

Entitlement Certificate (V750)

Pink form "holds" marks which have never been on a vehicle before. The certificate is valid for 1 year and can be renewed annually for £25. The mark can be assigned to a suitable vehicle registered in either the purchaser's or nominee's name. See Certificates of Entitlement for more information.

Entitlement Period

The entitlement period is currently one year and can be extended every year with the DVLA using an Entitlement Certificate for £25.

First Registration (V55/4)

Application for a first licence for a new motor vehicle and declaration for registration - for use by individuals importing a new vehicle, kit cars.

First Registration (V55/5)

Application for a first licence for a motor vehicle and declaration for registration - for use by individuals to register used vehicles, e.g. rebuilt.

For more information on First Registration, see Registering a Vehicle with DVLA.


There is one font (with several variations) that can be used legally on UK number plates: these are based on the Charles Wright font.

Governing Bodies

There are several governing bodies that oversee dealers engaged in the sale and transfer of registration numbers. Two of these are the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) and the Cherished Numbers Dealers Association (CNDA), both of which require members to adhere to a strict code of conduct.


Name which appears at the top of a retention certificate and is the same as the keeper of the vehicle that the mark came off. Only the grantee is entitled to sign the certificate. At present, the DVLA will not change the grantee but will allow a change of address. New regulations are currently pending to allow more flexibility in this procedure.


An inspection takes place when the DVLA need to validate that the donor car is using a registration legally, by comparing the car chassis number with its log book. Whilst these checks do not happen very often they will slow down the transfer process by at least a week. This is primarily done for the safety of the person buying the plates. If it turns out that the car is stolen, then the DVLA can take the registration back, even after the transfer has been completed.


Irish number plates can be a cost-effective way to disguise the age of a vehicle. It is important to state that cheap Northern Irish number plates consist of marks issued by DVLNI, such marks are transferable to GB vehicles via Coleraine and Newcastle licensing office. Marks issued in the Republic are not transferable.

Log Book (V5)

This is a vehicle logbook - the official DVLA document code for a logbook is V5/C Vehicle Registration Certificate.

Make Your Own Plate

Nationla Numbers offers two ways for you to design your own registration. You can design your own prefix registration or new-style registration.


Millennium registrations is another term for the current style of registration numbers used on vehicles in the UK, issued from September 2001.


MOT stands for Ministry Of Transport (roadworthiness certificate). The test is required by law for all vehicles over three years of age. The form is now printed on computer and can be validated online.


Registrations can now be transferred between cars and motorbikes. Nationla Numbers also make acrylic number plates specifically for motorbikes. Please call us on for more details.


New-style registrations is another term for the current style of registration numbers used on vehicles in the UK.


The grantee is able to nominate someone to receive the registration mark "stored" on a retention certificate. The mark can be assigned to a vehicle either in the name of the grantee or the nominee. The grantee is able to add or change the nominee by paying the DVLA fee of £25.

Number Plate

The term number plate is used to describe both the registration i.e. the rights to use a number, and the acrylic plates onto which the number is printed. Number plates come in many styles and formats. For a idea of what's available, see our article Number Plate Formats Explained.

Number Plate System

Dateless (1903 - 1962): The original system. Suffix (1963 - 1982): suffix series system. Prefix (1983 - 2001): prefix series system. 2001 - 2049: current, new-style series.


All vehicles are issued with a registration mark. Some drivers prefer to personalise their vehicle by actually choosing a mark to match their initials, name, etc.


Prefix registrations came into force in 1983. They are named prefix because a year identifying letter precedes any digits or letter sequences.


Private registrations is another term for personalised registrations. Private registrations are a bit like private schools, indicating an item not just accepted from a standard range.


The name appearing on the top of the V750. The purchaser has the same legal rights as the "grantee" on a retention certificate.

Q Plate

Q registrations identify a vehicle whose origin is unknown. For this reason, you can't put a cherished number onto a Q registered vehicle. Unfortunately you cannot buy Q prefix or suffix registrations.


Nationla Numbers offer free and instant online quotes for owners of registrations. We also offer a telephone service at a premium rate. Call 0905 757 0011. Calls cost 95p per minute and take less than a minute.


In vehicle-to-vehicle transfers, the vehicle receiving the new registration mark is called the Recipient.

Registered Keeper

In transfers, the Registered Keeper is the person named on the V5 logbook. The registered keeper is not necessarily the same as the vehicle owner.


A term used to refer to the number used on a personalised number plate. The registration corresponds to the Vehicle Identification Number on a vehicle and is printed on the vehicle registration document.

Registration Document (V5)

Some people refer to this as the logbook - the official DVLA document code for a logbook is V5/C (vehicle registration certificate).


To retain a registration means to move a registration number from a vehicle to a certificate. This allows the owner to retain the right to use the registration (DOT fee £105).

Retention Certificate (V778 or V778/1)

Application to place a mark on a retention certificate. The certificate allows a registration to be taken off a vehicle and stored on a certificate for later transferral or sale.

Retention Scheme

Pertains to a Retention Certificate - this is the scheme under which these certificates are issued. The scheme allows a mark to be taken off a vehicle and stored on a certificate. The same regulations apply as for vehicle to vehicle transfers.

Reverse Dateless

Reverse dateless number plates came about when councils discovered the sequence of dateless plates released would not provide a plentiful amount of registrations. The reversed sequence was issued much later than the original registrations with letters first. For example FDT + numbers was issued in 1948 and reversed in 1961.


A vehicle which has been scrapped must be declared scrapped with the DVLA. You cannot transfer a registration off a vehicle which has been scrapped.

Show Plate

Show Plates is a term given to acrylic number plates that are used for show or off-road purposes. They often include non-standard spacing, badges, and fonts. In November 2008, stricter regulations came into place making it illegal to manufacture such plates.

Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)

SORN is an abbreviation for Statutory Off Road Notification. If you do not renew your vehicle licence (tax) then you must declare the vehicle off the road with the DVLA. This is now a legal requirement.


Nationla Numbers owns about 1000 stock personalised registrations. These are purchased from auctions or from members of the public. Our stock number plates are held, very conveniently, on retention or entitlement certificates in the office. This means that the transfer time is greatly reduced and the mark can be on your vehicle in two to three days.


Suffix registrations consist of 3 letters followed by up to 3 digits, and a final letter which identifies the year the number was issued. The first suffix registration to be issued was A in 1963. An example of a suffix registration is NNN 123A.


Also known as a vehicle licence, your car must be taxed before you can transfer a registration on to it. If your vehicle is acting as a donor, then you can transfer the mark up to 12 months after the tax has expired (not refunded). Different tax bands are now introduced based on emissions, etc.


To move a registration from one vehicle to another. This is subject to an £80 DOT fee.

Transfer Fee

£80 fee to transfer a mark from donor to recipient vehicle. £105 to place a mark onto retention. Unfortunately, double transfer fees (£80 x 2 = £160) need to be paid to assign a mark on a DVLA V750 (entitlement certificate) to an NI registered vehicle.


Unissued refers to registrations that have never been issued by the DVLA or DVLNI. Sometimes these are entire ranges of plates (for instance Q plates, which are reserved for kit cars, etc) or combinations that may be deemed offensive, like BNP, ARS, etc. However, DVLA appear to becoming more and more tolerant - perhaps driven by revenue.


Transfer form issued by DVLA.


Certificate of entitlement (pink) "holds" marks which have never been on a vehicle before. Valid for 1 year and can be renewed annually for £25. Can only be assigned to a vehicle registered on DVLA computer.

V750 (NI)

Entitlement certificate (white) can only be assigned to a vehicle registered in Northern Ireland, valid for 1 year, renewable annually for £25.


Actual retention certificate (green) Issued by DVLA to "hold" a reg mark. Valid for 1 year and can be renewed annually for £25.


Application to place a mark on a retention certificate.


All registrations are subject to VAT. However, some transactions attract free VAT while some are subject to part VAT. This is because we sell number plates on behalf of individuals, who are not VAT registered, and companies who are VAT registered.

Vehicle Excise and Registration Act

Amendments to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act allowed the sale of previously unallocated registrations. A new government division, Sale of Marks (SOM), was created to fulfil activities related to the sale of these marks. At this time, the DVLC (as was) became the DVLA. The revenue accrued as a result of these sales contributes directly to the Treasury.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

A number, often stamped on the chassis of a vehicle, which identifies it.

Vehicle Registration Office (VRO)

Now known as DVLA Local Offices.

Vehicle to Vehicle Transfer Form (V317)

This form allows a vehicle to vehicle transfer of a registration. Both keepers must sign the relevant forms.

Write Off

A vehicle which has been written-off is no longer seen as viable in the eyes of a vehicle insurance company. You cannot transfer a registration on to a written-off vehicle, but you can transfer one off using a V317, or onto a certificate using a V778.

To follow are some helpful hints to suggest numbers that look like letters. Remember, you are not allowed legally to mis-space the number and/or letters in order to mis-represent the actual registration mark.

Helpful Hints

A4, 8, 17, 19
B3, 13
E3, 6
G6, 9
R2, 12
W11, 111

Last updated: Wednesday 11th January 2012 at 4:18pm

By Eric Craggs - Google+