BOSSREG - Number One For Number Plates

Irish Number Plates

What Are Irish Number Pates?

Northern Ireland has been using the vehicle registration system first introduced for the United Kingdom of Britain in 1903, although a recent addition is the optional EU format that displays the “BG” country code alongside the regular registration. Some unofficial side badges like “IRL” or “NI” are occasionally on display, too. The 1903 vehicle registration system displays a two-letter county and city code featuring the letters “I” and “Z” – the two letters not permitted for usage in mainland Britain. The letters “I” and “Z” are only used for Northern Ireland’s vehicle registrations. Since Northern Ireland initially ran a system that was parallel with mainland Britain’s, the Irish number plates originally used codes that ran from 1 to 9999. When this number combination was completed, another code was allocated. All possible codes had been used by 1957, which required reversed sequences to be issued. County Antrim was the first county to issue such in January 1958, the very first being the Irish number plate displaying “1 IA”. Irish number plates represent another interesting investment opportunity in that the reversed number sequences were also completed within a short space of time, creating some sought after number and letter combinations for today’s buyers. In January 1966 Northern Ireland finally introduced the current "AXX 1234" format. In this combination "XX" stands for the county code and "A" is a serial letter. Such a format permits a far greater capacity and each county adopted the new system, when they ran out of reversed sequences. County Londonderry was the last county do so in October 1973, issuing an Irish number plate with the sequence “AIW 1”. Online dealers such as have a system that allows customers to type in their wish-combination and the system will check, if such a letter and number combination exists and if it is for sale. In November 1985 Northern Ireland’s DVA offices (Driver and Vehicle Agency) decided to withhold the first 100 numbers of each series and created thus cherished registrations for investors to enjoy. Following on from this decision, Irish number plates issued from April 1989 onwards also saw the numbers 101-999 withheld, creating another batch of cherished registrations. Eventually, multiples of “1000” and “1111” (called "four-of-a-kind") enjoyed cherished registration status thanks to DVA’s decision to withhold these numbers in Northern Ireland. Each new series finishes with “9998” and jumps to the next letter and number combination in that series. The code “QNI” stands for vehicles of indeterminate age, such as self-build kit cars for example. Irish number plates thus have not only the appeal of cherished and universally dateless registrations; they are also attractive because they display easily recognisable county identifiers such as county codes AZ for Belfast or DZ and IA for Antrim. Belfast offers several county codes for collectors to search for: GZ, CZ, EZ and FZ for example all stand for Belfast. Just as the motor industry in mainland UK has been struggling to cope with a glut of sales in spring and a mere trickle of sales from the summer to the remainder of the year, Ireland has also started to rethink the way in which registrations are issued, particularly now that the new “13-series” is out amid fears superstitious customers might shun such registrations. Instead of bearing the registration number “13” Irish vehicles registered during the first half of 2013 will display the numbers “131”. Vehicles registered in the second half of 2013 will show “132” on their Irish number plates. Since a bi-annual registration system has been very effective in Britain and helped motorists to more accurately assess the age of a vehicle, Ireland is also introducing such a system. Currently, nearly 70% of new vehicle sales take place between January and April, causing some considerable problems for dealerships during the latter part of the year, when sales dwindle away. Customers with older vehicles on the other hand will be happy to look for current and older Northern Ireland number plates. It is perfectly legal to transfer Irish number plates onto vehicles used in England, Wales and Scotland, thus hiding the actual age of the vehicle. Irish number plates are issued by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland or DVLNI central office in Colerain, Northern Ireland, displaying different letter combinations to the ones in England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland’s number plates will always carry the letters “I” or “Z” in their letter combinations without displaying any age identifier. Therefore, using Northern Irish number plates on older vehicles is a cost-effective way of squeezing a little more life out of an investment. Irish number plates are widely available online and can be bought for as little as £40.00 plus VAT. Number plates from Eire, however, cannot be used on United Kingdom registered vehicles. Eire or Ireland is a sovereign European country, while Northern Ireland forms part of the United Kingdom of Britain.    

18 March 2014

Changes to vehicle registration and licensing services in Northern Ireland

Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, has announced that the administration of vehicle registration and licensing services in Northern Ireland (NI) will be transferred to the DVLA and centralised in Swansea.

This development, together with the planned introduction of enhanced electronic services in NI, is designed to provide parity of service across the UK and ensure NI motorists have access to additional services that are not currently available to them. The changes will take effect before the end of 2014 and will alter the way vehicles are registered and taxed after the changes are implemented.

The changes will include:

  • Access to DVLA’s online vehicle tax service. This will allow NI motorists to tax a vehicle or declare their vehicle off the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week online.
  • Improved face-to-face services for motorists at around 175 Post Office® branches across NI, some with Saturday opening, which will offer an enhanced range of licensing transactions.
  • NI customers will be able to purchase NI and GB personalised registration numbers through the DVLA’s Personalised Registration sales scheme.
  • The DVLA’s fleet scheme will be made available to fleet operators in NI.
  • Movement of vehicles between NI and GB will be simplified.
  • The facility to retain NI registration numbers will be introduced. This will allow NI customers to hold a registration number on a Certificate of Entitlement, for future assignment to an alternative vehicle.
  • The transfer of registration numbers between NI and GB vehicles will be streamlined, creating a UK wide market for NI and GB cherished number dealers.
  • Data services will be harmonised, allowing customers with a right to access vehicle and keeper information to obtain GB and NI data from a single source.
  • DVA offices will no longer offer vehicle registration and licensing services, either face-to-face or by post; additionally, some services currently provided by the DVA will be delivered differently in future, in line with services already available in GB.

The DVLA has said that more detailed information will be made available over the coming months, and has requested that, in the meantime, vehicles should still be registered and taxed in the same way as before.

The changes, following a full and public consultation, will mean that all Northern Ireland (NI) motorists will benefit from the same services as motorists in the rest of the UK from July 2014. This means NI motorists will, for the first time, be able to tax vehicles online or by phone. Motorists will also have access to more face-to-face vehicle registration and licensing services than ever before at around 175 Post Office® branches across NI. Following consultation, the proposal will also include additional support for customers and staff, to help the move to these new services. As well as improving services for NI motorists and businesses, the reforms will result in an estimated £12 million year on year saving. Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said:

Motorists in Northern Ireland have not been able to access many of the vehicle registration and licensing services that are taken for granted in the rest of the UK. These changes will address this and will mean that for the first time, Northern Ireland motorists will have greater choice and flexibility or where, when and how they use these services.

We have listened very carefully to the points raised during consultation, particularly about the uncertainty for the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) staff who currently provide vehicle registration and licensing services. While the changes mean DVA will no longer provide these services, the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has said that they will try to avoid redundancies and minimise the amount of compulsory redundancies as a result of these changes. DVA staff will continue to provide support to customers until the end of the year while the new services are fully bedded in.

I would like to thank the staff in DVA for their continued support, and their hard work in delivering vehicle registration and licensing services to Northern Ireland motorists over the years.


  1. The full range of vehicle registration and licensing services will be available to Northern Ireland motorists from July 2014. Any remaining transactions will be centralised at the DVLA in Swansea.

  2. DVA’s main office is in Coleraine. 8 regional offices across NI provide vehicle and registration licensing services on DVLA’s behalf, one of which is based in the main office building in Coleraine. The other regional offices are in Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Londonderry and Omagh.

  3. Motorists in GB have been able to tax their vehicle online or by phone since 2006. As part of the changes announced today, motorists in NI will, for the first time, be able to tax their vehicle online or by phone. There will be more telephone lines available providing a quick service and will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from home, work or abroad. Motorists will also be able to tell DVLA that their vehicle is being kept off the road in the same way, as well as having access to more vehicle registration and licensing services at around 175 Post Office® branches across the country.

  4. Under the reforms, DVA will no longer provide vehicle registration and licensing services for NI motorists. DVA’s offices will remain open until the end of 2014 to support customers while the new services are fully bedded in.

  5. Today’s changes follow a public consultation, which closed in September, on modernising Northern Ireland’s vehicle registration and licensing services. In summary, the consultation sought views on the proposal to modernise the services available to NI motorists and centralise the delivery of vehicle and registration services at DVLA in Swansea. The consultation is available to view online.

  6. A package of documents which assess the impacts of the changes and summarise responses to the consultation can be viewed on GOV.UK. These documents also contain further details of the future services that will be available to NI motorists.

  7. Driver licensing is a devolved matter in NI and will remain the responsibility of DVA.