It’s finally March, which can only mean one thing: new vehicle registration plates are out!

But what do new number plates mean? How do they work? Why do they come out in March? What is this year’s number plate?

We have the answers to each of your questions in our 2019 vehicle registration guide!

Why do number plates exist? A history…

Number plates first arrived in the UK as part of the Motor Act 1903, which required all motor vehicles to be put on an official Vehicle Register. When the act came into fruition, the council went about assigning a unique number to each car. From then onwards, it became a legal offence to drive without a vehicle registration plate.

It used to be that new number plates would appear annually. However, in 1999, matching the increase in vehicular production, this change to twice a year.

Why are number plates no longer black and white/silver?

The appearance of registration plates stayed the same until 1973. Traditionally, each vehicle had a black number plate on a white background, but from January 1st 1973, that was changed to black text on a yellow background at the rear of the vehicle. This was to improve visibility in regard to unlit vehicles at night.

Nowadays, it is still legal to have black and silver/white number plates but only on vehicles registered before 1st January 1975, providing they are registered with the HIstoric Vehicles taxation class.

mercedes number plate

When do new number plates come out?

New registrations come out twice a year: 1st March and 1st September.

What is the March 2019 registration plate?

The latest number plate, which arrived on 1st March 2019 and applies to all vehicles registered between now and 1st September 2019, is simply 19.

If you see any vehicle with a number plate that begins with two letters followed by ‘19’, you know it is brand-new.

How do car registrations work and what do they mean?

If you were to dissect a number plate, you would get the following elements:

  • The local memory tag. This is represented by the first two letters and indicates where the vehicle was originally registered.
  • Age identifier. This is what most people refer to when discussing the age of a car.
  • A randomly chosen combination, allocated to a dealership when the car is registered.

So, let’s use the following number plate as an example.


The FA represents Nottingham and Lincoln, meaning the vehicle was registered in one of these cities. To discover each UK city’s registration plate code, check out the DVLA memory tag guide.

The 17 tells us this particular vehicle was registered in March 2017, and the SSZ is the random combination at the end.

It’s worth bearing in mind that personalised number plates do not follow this template. Interesting fact: the most expensive personalised number plate was sold by the DVLA for £518,000. it was bought by Ferrari dealer John Collins and read: ‘25 O’.

Get a brand-new 2019 plate vehicle

Our lease agreements provide cars that are absolutely brand-spanking-new. If you choose one of our short-term lease deals today, you’ll be driving a 2019-reg vehicle in no time at all!