How do UK number plates work?

Published Date: 3rd Feb 2023

In the UK, twice a year marks an exciting event - it's time for new number plates! On the 1st of March and 1st of September each year, car owners eagerly await their chance to rock the latest numbers on their set of wheels. This autumn will see the introduction of '73' as the newest addition to our roads that may make your vehicle stand out from all others. These are issued alongside another random character combination at registration when buying brand-new cars after this date in 2023. While you might have difficulty getting hold of one due to high demand, familiarise yourself with how these license plate systems work so you can ride off into 2023 looking stylish!


March 2023 marks the arrival of the new ‘23’ number plate, and September 2023 is the ‘73’ number plate.

UK number plates are unique identifiers that help to distinguish your vehicle from the rest. Current cars display a 72 plate, which will remain in circulation until September 2023! The numbers on your plate consist of two letters representing the region where it is registered, followed by two numbers indicating when it was licensed and three randomly generated characters. Get ready for this year's 23-plate release now - make sure you stand out with the new plate!

A new car delivered in March could have MA23 UKC, and a vehicle delivered in September could have MA73 UKC as its registration number plate!

You can see how this will pan out until 2030 in the table below:

New 73 registration Plate September 2023

  • 2023 = 23 & 73 Registration Plates
  • 2024 = 24 & 74
  • 2025 = 25 & 75
  • 2026 = 26 & 76
  • 2027 = 27 & 77
  • 2028 = 28 & 78
  • 2029 = 29 & 79
  • 2030 = 30 & 80


What will new car reg plates look like in 2030? Under the current system, you will see 30-plate cars from 1st March and then 80-plate cars from 1st September.

If you own a vehicle that was made after the year 1973, then it's important for you to pay attention! To ensure your number plates are up-to-scratch with legal requirements - there is a strict protocol of rules and measurements. From character sizes (79mm x 50mm), stroke weight(14 mm), spacing (11 & 33 mm respectively ) between characters; top/bottom/side margins at 11mm, vertical space between age identifier and random numbers 19m min addition the font used since 2001 – Charles Wright– must be adhered too. So make sure yours passes inspection or face those hefty fines!

If you are looking for a new car for March, start now as the lead time for the most popular brands, such as Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan etc., are months rather than weeks, so call 0161 946 3500 and ask the sales team to check the vehicle you are interested in.