How to check how old your car is

Old cars look old. It might seem obvious but when you look at a car from the ‘90s, it definitely looks like a car from the ‘90s, even if it looked state-of-the-art at the time. It’s even more noticeable now in the age of the extravagant designs of EVs and their desperation to stand out from the crowd. But how do you know exactly how old a car is? Scrap Car Comparison provides you with a cheat sheet to ageing cars.

But first, if your car is getting on a bit and you’re starting to worry about its longevity, why not scrap it and get some cash from it while you can. By using Scrap Car Comparison you’ll get the very best price in the easiest way. We’ll compare prices across your local area to find your best quote, and we’ll even come and collect it for free with one of our nationwide collection partners.

Old cars parked in a line

Can I find out how old my car is?

Absolutely! The easiest way to work out your car’s age is to look at its registration plate, as this will often provide an indication as to the year it was produced. If you’re unsure how registration plates work (don’t worry, we’ll explain those later) and you have easy access to your car’s paperwork, you can find out your car’s age from the V5C log book or the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

New-style car registration years explained

The ‘new’ style number plates (although these have actually been in service for over 20 years now), also known as Millenium Registrations, can seem a little confusing from the outset, but it’s all relatively simple once you begin to decipher it. As an example, this style of registration looks like: AB51 ABC.

The first two letters show the location the car was registered, known as a memory tag, while the two letters are linked to the year of registration. They began with the ‘51’ plate, which denoted September 2001 to March 2002, and then was followed by ‘02’ for March 2002 up to September, followed by ‘53’ for the next six months, ‘03’, ‘54’, ‘04’ and so on.

This system is due to run up until March 2051 when the ‘00’ plate will expire.

Prefix-style car registration years explained

The prefix-style number plates ran from 1983 up until 2001 with the first letter of the plate denoting the year of registration. Each letter would run for a 12 month period from August to July (no sensible January to December here…). A prefix-style number plate would look like A123 ABC. Starting from A in 1983/84 up to Y in 2001. “Where’s Z” you might be asking, well, the Z could be confused for a 2, so was avoided – much like the letters I and O were skipped due to their similarities to numbers 1 and 0. U was also avoided due to its similarity with the letter V.

Q was also skipped, but this is because the Q designation is reserved for cars whose identity is in doubt.

Suffix-style car registration years explained

Much like the prefix-style number plates, a letter would represent a year of registration, although on this occasion it was at the end of the plate instead of the start. Once again, a letter would be in place for 12 months – except for E. A-D ran January to December, but the system switched to the August to July method in 1967, meaning suffix E plates were only produced for six months from January to July in 1967. Once again I, O, Q, U and Z were not used. The system started in 1963 with suffix A plates, running up to Y, which ended in July 1983.

Can I tell my car’s age using its VIN number?

If you still can’t get your head around how number plates work then you could always find out the age of your car from its VIN number – although this is arguably more complicated than looking at your number plate! Your VIN is found on your V5C or on the car itself, often on a clear piece of glass in the windscreen. A VIN is made up of 17 digits, and the 10th digit should let you know when your car was made, although if you’re unsure you should consult your car’s original dealer, as they’ll be able to let you know when it was first registered.

Can I put a newer plate on an older car?

No, the DVLA rules are clear that you cannot put a number plate on a car to make it seem younger than it actually is. For example, this means you cannot put a Y-prefix plate on a car made in 1994, just as you couldn’t put a 17-plate on a car made in 2007. If you have your heart set on a specific plate that’s got a date included, then you can purchase that registration and keep it on retention until you have a car where it would be legal – or you can just opt for a dateless plate to avoid any dramas.

Can you put a private plate on any vehicle?

As long as you’re not putting a plate on a car that could make it appear younger than it actually is, you can put a private plate on any vehicle that you own. However, if you’re looking to create your own private number plate, rather than buying an existing one, then there are a few rules that you must abide by. As with standard registrations, you cannot use letters I, O, U, Q or Z due to their similarities with other characters, and you cannot have rude or offensive plates – in 2020 alone 186 plates were banned by the DVLA for this very reason.

Does the age of a car affect scrap value?

All cars depreciate over time, there’s no getting around that fact, so an older car is going to have a lower base value than a newer one just on that fact alone. However, when it comes to scrap value, the biggest determining factor is its weight. The value of a scrap car can alter with age when it comes to the ability for any parts to be salvaged from them. A younger car is likely to get a higher sum only if it has a number of reusable parts on it, whilst an older car will probably be a little more tired, and therefore have few parts that can be used elsewhere.

If your car’s beginning to look around 14 – the average age of scrap vehicles in the UK – and it’s starting to feel more than a little tired, then you may want to give Scrap Car Comparison a call. With a team of scrap and salvage experts waiting to take your call and collection agents operating across 99% of the UK, we can guarantee you the very best price for your car in as little as 60 seconds, so don’t delay and get started today.

Get Quote Now

Get Offers For
Your Scrap Car In
Less Than 30 Seconds


Your request is processing

Your request is processing...