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New 2021 registration plates are out – but what does that actually mean?

March marks the onset of spring, which is symbolic of new life. In the automotive world, the same is true…


Read length: 3 minutes

March marks the onset of spring, which is symbolic of new life. In the automotive world, the same is true for car registrations and this year sees the launch of the 21 reg plate in spring (March), followed by the 71 reg plate in autumn (September).

Why the excitement?

March and September are important dates in the diary for many motoring enthusiasts because it’s very often in these months that the latest car models make their showroom debuts. This could mean that a model is getting a complete facelift or design overhaul, or it could be a small update to include an additional feature. For many buyers, this is the ideal time to secure a new vehicle.

What do the plates actually mean and why do you need them?

Vehicle number plates identify when and where all vehicles in the UK were registered. The number plate is not linked to the owner but to the vehicle until it is destroyed or is exported. An owner can however transfer it to another vehicle if they prefer.

The numbers on the plate are known as age identifiers and show what year the vehicle was registered. The first batch of plates issued in March take the last two digits of the registration year. In this case 21. For cars registered between September and February, the code is the last two digits of the year (as of September) plus 50. In this case 71.

What about the letters on the plate?

The two prefix letters are known as the local memory tag. The first letter represents the region of the UK and the second letter the local DVLA office where the vehicle was registered. The three letters at the end are randomly generated and allocated to a dealership when the car is registered, thereby giving each vehicle its own unique identity that differentiates it from others.

Learn more about the full list number plate age identifiers and local memory tags here.

What are the specifications for a number plate?

All vehicles made after 1 January 1973 must have a front number plate with a white background, and a rear number plate with a yellow background. Vehicle owners are not permitted to rearrange letters or numbers or alter them so that they’re hard to read. According to the DVLA, you could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.

Personalised number plates are permitted and can be purchased from the DVLA or from a private dealer. If you have the right to a private number that is not currently being used, you can apply to assign it to a vehicle. Whether standard-issue, or personalised, there are strict rules concerning the specification of the letters and numbers in the reg plate.

Characters must be 79mm tall
Characters be 50mm wide (except the number 1 or letter I)
Character stroke thickness must be 14mm
Space between characters must be 11mm
The space between the age identifier and the random letters must be 33mm
The margins at the top, bottom and side must be 11mm
The vertical space between the age identifier and the random numbers must be 19mm
Charles Wright font is required for all plates

The all-new ‘green’ number plate

Fully-electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars purchased from 8 December 2020 onwards come fitted with a ‘green number plate’. The plates are identifiable by a green flash on the left-hand side to make it easier for cars to be identified as zero-emission vehicles. This is to help local authorities design and implement new policies to incentivise people to own and drive them.

Getting cover to drive your new 21 plate vehicle

Although car dealerships in England are only expected to reopen their physical showrooms to customers from 12 April, the rise of the digital dealership means that car enthusiasts can still get their hands on a coveted 21 reg plate through click and collect and home delivery service.

If you’re purchasing a new vehicle but don’t want to commit to adjusting your annual policy or searching for a new one on the spot, temporary driveaway insurance may the most suitable option. Policies cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days. Driveaway cover provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. Another benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.

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