Buying a used car – knowledge is power

Do you know the amount of people who are looking at buying cars at any point in time? No neither do I but what I do know, having bought, sold, negotiated and part-exchanged my way through literally thousands of car transactions going back more years than I care to remember, is that so many people don’t even know what the age of a car is by its registration number plate. They may say it’s a “p reg” for example but in the next breath they say “so what does that mean?”

It sounds incredible to the initiated and when you are in possession of the knowledge in any business you tend to become blasé about everybody else knowing what you consider to be simple things. Like for example when you say it’s a 150BHP (the brake horse power) engine or if you are discussing trim levels or different model names. We in the trade now expect customers to have a basic knowledge of terms and car choices, especially with the advent of the all powerful internet assisting in research. So for your information and education but also so you don’t embarrass yourself down at the dealers and let a crafty salesman think that you are a ‘hands up Billy‘ here is how it works in its simplest form.

The ‘seven symbol’ format using letter suffixes and prefixes ran from 1963 until 2001 and the list from 1985 onwards is as follows;

1985 B C  
1986 C D  
1987 D E  
1988 E F  
1989 F G  
1990 G H  
1991 H J  
1992 J K  
1993 K L  
1994 L M  
1995 M N  
1996 N P  
1997 P R  
1998 R S  
1999 S T V
2000 V W X
2001 X Y 51
2002 51 02 52
2003 52 03 53
2004 53 04 54
2005 54 05 55
2006 55 06 56
2007 56 07 57
2008 57 08 58


After “S’ reg” in August ’98 the system was changed with the introduction of 2 plate changes per year, in March and September, to try and cool the concentration of the August rush. In 2001 though it was changed again only this time more radically as even though the mixture of number and letters remains at 7 the system has been changed to give more information about the registration area of each car. For example AO53PKL is explained as follows;

The “AO” part is the location, with the first letter pertaining to the region and the second being with which local DVLA office the car was first registered. The “53” is obviously the year of registration but in this case the 53 is from the September until February bringing the following year into play but still keeping the 53 plate until the change to 04 in the march. “PKL” are just random numbers although not so random that if something rude or offensive comes out it will not be allowed.

So there you have it as clear as mud, not complicated at all and who says that three potential plate changes in a year could devalue a car even more than it is already? Anyway next time you are looking to buy or sell a car at least now you can bore people with your new found knowledge. It’s not all about fast fun and funky cars you know!

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One Response to Buying a used car – knowledge is power

  1. Pop January 29, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    Interesting to know how we know the age of a vehicle by number plate. Recently, I went for a used car trade show not knowing this. Luckily, I never book any car yet.

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