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What are the car number plates for 2024?

Every car on the UK’s roads has a registration number. Our guide explains what the numbers mean and how they’ll change in 2024.

Cazoo Editorial Team Byline Icon

By Cazoo editorial team

Updated: 3 January 2024

Every car has a registration number, a combination of letters and numbers shown on a ‘number plate’ attached to the front and back of the car. They’re a legal requirement for using a car on the UK’s roads and they also give you some useful information about the car.

Here, we explain everything you need to know about registration numbers, and we’ll also tell you what the new plate numbers are in 2024.

Why does my car have a registration number?

A car’s registration number distinguishes it from every other car on the road. The combination of letters and digits is unique to an individual car and allows it to be identified. The information linked to your car’s registration number is essential when you want to tax it, insure it or sell it and it allows authorities to track a car that has been involved in a crime or traffic offence.

On a practical level, it also means you can find your car in a car park filled with similar makes and models.

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Does a registration number identify a car’s owner?

All registration numbers are issued by the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) when a car is new. The registration is tied to both the car and its ‘keeper’ (DVLA doesn’t use the word ‘owner’), whether it’s an individual person or a company.

When you buy a car, you must notify the DVLA of the transfer of ‘keepership’ from the seller to you, which is recorded against the car’s registration. You then become the car’s ‘registered keeper’. Insurance, MOTs, breakdown cover and servicing are also tied to the car’s registration.

What does a registration number mean?

A registration number is a unique combination of letters and digits. Several formats have been used over the years, but the current one is two letters/two digits/three letters. Here’s an example:


The first two letters are an area code that relates to the DVLA office where the car was first registered. Each office has several codes – ‘AA’ refers to Peterborough, for example.

The two digits that follow tell you when the car was first registered. So ‘23’ tells you the car was registered between 1 March and 31 August 2023.

The final three letters are randomly generated and simply mark the car out from all the other registrations that start with ‘AA 23’.

This format was introduced in 2001. It was designed to give more combinations of letters and digits than previous formats allowed.

When do registration plate numbers change in 2024?

The date code for new registrations (e.g. the 23 in AA23 YYY) changes every six months, on 1 March and 1 September. So in 2023, the code changed to ‘23’ in March (matching the year) and ‘73’ in September (the year, plus 50). In 2024, the code is ‘24’ as of March and ‘74’ as of September.

The format started on 1 September 2001 with the code ‘51’ and will end on 31 August 2050 with the code ‘50’. After that date, a new – as yet unannounced – format will be introduced.

There’s often a lot of excitement around ‘reg change day’. Many car buyers really value having a car with the latest date code. Around the same time, some dealers offer great deals on cars with the previous code, so you could pick up a bargain.

What are the rules for car number plates?

The law requires most vehicles on UK roads, including cars, to have a number plate showing the registration number at the front and back. However, a few vehicles, such as tractors and motorbikes, need only one plate, on the back.

There are strict rules around a number plate’s size, colour, reflectiveness and the spacing between the characters. There are other rules, too. You mustn’t block the view of the plate, for instance with a bike rack or trailer. You mustn’t use stickers or tape to alter the appearance of the plate. It must be kept clean and undamaged, and the lights for the rear number plates must be working.

If your plate doesn’t meet the rules, your car could fail its MOT. The police can fine you and even confiscate your car.

How do I get a replacement number plate?

It’s easy to replace a damaged number plate if you need one. They’re available from most car-parts shops and from many websites.

Some paperwork is required. Whether you buy your plate in person or online, the retailer will ask to see a personal ID (a driving licence or passport, for example) and proof that you’re legally ‘entitled to the registration number’. This could be the V5C document or, if you lease your car, a letter of authorisation from the lease company that includes the document reference number from the V5C.

What are private registrations?

If you want something more distinctive or meaningful than your car’s original registration number, you can buy a ‘private’ registration number. There are thousands available from the DVLA, specialist auctions and dealers.

If you can’t find one you like, the DVLA may be able to issue a registration just for you, so long as the combination of letters and digits meets some format requirements and doesn’t spell out anything rude. It can't make your car appear newer than it is, either. Costs vary from about £30 to hundreds of thousands for the most desirable numbers.

Once you’ve bought a private registration number, you need to ask the DVLA to transfer it to your car. If you sell the car, you need to tell the DVLA so it can reinstate the car’s original registration, and to have your registration transferred to your new car.

An easier way to find or sell a car

You’ll find lots of used cars for sale at Cazoo, all available to buy through our trusted dealers.

Cazoo makes selling a car just as easy – just enter a few details for an instant online valuation. If you accept the offer our partners will get in touch to arrange payment and collection of your car at a time that suits you.

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