The article below is provided to assist our visitors in understanding the legal requirements for Licence Plates in the UK.
Display and Appearance of UK Number Plates - An Overview
Owning a car comes with some responsibilities. Cars need to be insured, taxed and have a current MOT. In order to pass an MOT, a car must meet clearly defined standards of roadworthiness. Tests include tyre condition and tread depth, lights, steering, braking systems, exhaust emissions and other mechanical components. One of the checks is that number plates meet legislative requirements. A surprising number of vehicles fail on this basis every year. Many drivers are tempted by so-called `show plates` which may be readily purchased via the internet but which use fonts, styling and material that fall foul of regulations. These plates are, as the name suggests, designed for show events, not for road use.
In a nutshell you need number plates on both the front and back of the car (although there are a few exceptions with older cars) with black lettering. The white plate goes at the front and the yellow plate goes at the back. The backing colour must be reflective (but not reflective in the way in which anti-camera sprays cause reflection!). The plates should be easy to read in order to meet the British Standard which essentially states that they must be visible, strong and reflective. They should also be marked with the British Standard number, the identity of the manufacturer of the plate such as the name or logo, together with the name and postcode of the final supplier (seller of the number plate). Any additional markings such as a non-reflective border and the European symbol are an optional extra. You cannot however have any markings other than these.
There are also some rules regarding the characters, which is why you should always buy plates from specialist makers as they are aware of the strict measurements to which they must adhere. For cars made after 2001 the characters must be 79mm in height, 50mm in width (except I/1), 14mm strokes, 11mm in space between each character, 33mm between the two groups of characters, 11mm margins and 19mm spacing between the vertical lines. Plates for cars made before 2001 should feature measurements from one of two listed groups. The characters should be 89mm high, 64mm wide, have 16mm strokes, have 13mm between characters, 38mm between the two groups, 13 mm margins and have 19mm of space between vertical lines. The second group specifies that character measurements should be the same as those belonging to number plates in the post 2001 group with the exception of the character width which is 57mm. The narrower width specification for cars made after September 2001 is to allow for the European symbol. Exceptions to these rules relate to cars made before January 1973 and to motorcycles made after September 2001 which need only have one rear plate.
The law states that you must not alter, rearrange or misrepresent letters or numbers (a common approach used in drive-offs at petrol stations). You could pay up to £1,000 for this offence. It is not, of course, an offence to buy new number plates with your registration to replace lost, damaged or weathered plates. You should buy these from a reputable maker who will take your details and make the plates to the right specification.
Many people buy and own cherished numbers which they move from one car to another. In doing so, be sure that you are not trying to move plates with a year indicator from a newer car to an older car as falsifying a car`s age is an offence. In all cases, you will need to complete the appropriate DVLA paperwork. With so many people buying personalised number plates by auction, online or from specialists, it is important that the legal requirements are properly understood. You can look online for personalised plates. This is now a mature industry with reputable firms being happy to explain the process and the legalities. Legal plates and a valid MOT are, of course, essential in obtaining car insurance.