Each year in the UK, at the start of March and September, the number assigned to newly registered cars gets changed. Here we'll explain how the number changes on licence plates are determined and how it can affect new car buying for you and others.

As we mentioned before, the numbers on the licence plate are relevant to a car's age and indicate in what time period a car was registered.

Under current laws, a standard number plate has its two numbers located around the middle. They are situated straight after two letters which identify where the vehicle was registered, and before three separate letters that are chosen at random and then allocated to a dealership when the vehicle is registered there.

The current layout for vehicle number plates in Britain has been in use since March 2001. Cars registered before that date had a single letter situated at the start of the plate.

2002 was the first full year to follow the current number plate procedure. At the very start of that year, newly registered cars were still using the number 51 (established since September the year before), but between March 2002 and August 2002 new cars registered in that period used ‘02’ as their number. Then from September 2002 and until March 2003, new cars had the number 52 on their plates.

Since then, the subsequent numbers have been increasing by one in these two time periods. So during 2017, new cars at the very start of the year will use the number 66 for their plates, before switching to 17 in March and then to 67 in September later the same year.

This procedure for picking the number used on new car licence plates will continue to be enforced by the Driver Licensing Vehicle Agency (DVLA) until the year 2050, when a new procedure is expected to replace it.

If you’re planning on buying a new car in the near future, picking a new model soon before a number plate change is usually a good time. That’s because the age of the number plate affects the appeal and value of cars.

Whenever there’s a number plate change looming, some dealerships will be keen to clear out any cars yet to be sold carrying the number plate that’s about to become ‘old’. These same dealers will want to clear as much room as they can for the fresh stock of cars with the new licence plate number.