Number plate changes to be unveiled within weeks as British drivers admit to not knowing important rules

Number plate changes to be unveiled within weeks as British drivers admit to not knowing important rules

WATCH: Richard Holden attends the last number plate auction

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 19/02/2024

- 13:12

Three-in-10 drivers said they didn’t know the purpose of the third and fourth digits on number plates

More than a third of drivers have admitted that they do not look at number plates when buying a new car in a damning indictment of “new reg day” which is just weeks away.

According to new research, 14 per cent of people said they didn’t “have a clue” how many times a year new UK registration plates were updated.

In a survey of more than 1,700 people, 22 per cent of drivers said they did not understand how the standard number plate system works.

This number rose to over a quarter when elderly drivers over the age of 65 were quizzed about what the numbers and characters mean.

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Number plate

​Many drivers are unaware of what the numbers and letters on a number plate mean 


A normal UK registration plate is made up of two letters which refer to the region where the vehicle was first registered, followed by two numbers denoting when the plate was issued and finally three letters chosen at random.

This means a number plate reading “BA73 ABC” signifies that a vehicle was first registered in Birmingham after September 2023.

Data from Go.Compare found that 34 per cent of drivers said they did not know what these letters meant while almost three-in-10 said they didn’t know the purpose of the third and fourth digits.

New number plates are rolled out twice every year, once in March and once in September. This year, the new “24” plate will be introduced on March 1, while the “74” plate will be released six months later.

The “new reg days” usually result in an uplift of vehicle sales for forecourts across the UK as drivers look to get their hands on the latest models.

However, in recent years, experts have said the allure of “new reg day” does not have the same pull as it did in previous years, especially amid the cost of living crisis and after the pandemic.

Tom Banks, car insurance spokesperson for Go.Compare, said it was “interesting” to see how many motorists are unaware of what number plates actually mean, despite driving past hundreds or even thousands of them every day.

He added: “Even if you aren’t plate aware, it is important that you are insurance aware.

“Therefore, if you are lucky enough to be picking up a ‘24'-plate car in a few weeks don’t forget to shop around for insurance.

“You may find that your current insurance provider will simply change the details of your policy to cover your new vehicle, but this may not always be the cheapest option.

“So it’s always worth comparing the price you have against the rest of the market to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.”

Drivers can be hit with a £1,000 fine for not having a road-legal number plate and could even see their vehicle fail its MOT test.


Number plate

The new '74' number plate will be rolled out on March 1


A number of legal requirements need to be followed to ensure drivers can continue on roads with their number plates.

These include being made from a reflecting material and displaying black characters on a white background for the front plate and a yellow background for the rear plate. They are also not allowed to have a background pattern.

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