Ensuring Your Number Plate Is Legal


In 2020, 13,720 drivers faced hefty fines of up to £1,000 after being caught with illegally modified number plates. Without legal plates it can be difficult to trace drivers in the event of an accident, speeding camera flash or if the police ever need further information on the vehicle for crime related purposes.

This is why it is absolutely essential to make sure your number plate complies with all the relevant laws and regulations. In this guide, we’re breaking down all of the seemingly complicated rules so you can be sure you aren’t on the road with an illegal plate.

First things first, let’s take a look at what makes a number plate illegal:

  • Wrong font
  • Wrong sizing
  • Incorrect spacing
  • Misplacing of bolts
  • Incorrect background
  • Invalid flags
  • Offensive words/phrases

The Correct Font for Your Number Plate

As part of the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001, it is illegal for any vehicle being used on the public highway to have a number plate which uses a font other than Charles Wright or Charles Wright New (an updated version).

Additionally, there are only two styles available for your number plate: standard and 3D effect (or two-tone). Any other styles which were previously available such as italic, highline and carbon are now prohibited.

The Correct Letter Sizing for Your Number Plate

UK number plates are monospaces, meaning all letters (except I) and numbers (except 1) are the same height and width. All characters excluding I and 1 must be 50mm wide and 79mm tall and each stroke on the character must be 14mm.

The Correct Spacing for Your Number Plate

In addition to letter sizing, letter spacing is also uniform, meaning there must be an exact space of 11mm between each character as well as an 11mm margin around the outside of the number plate. The gap in the middle of the registration number should also be 33mm.

The Correct Bolt Placement for Your Number Plate

If you have used bolts to affix your plate to your vehicle, it’s important to check that you have applied them correctly. As a bolt can sometimes make a letter or number look like a different number when placed incorrectly, you need to make sure that they are fitted in a way that doesn’t obscure the characters from a distance.

The Correct Background for Your Number Plate

It is necessary to have the standard UK background on your perspex plates so that the digits stand out against the reflective plate and can be clearly read. The front plate must have a white background and the rear plate must have a yellow background. Changing the background, colours or adding additional stickers can interfere with the visibility and cause your plate to be considered illegal. 

The Correct Flags for Your Number Plate

You may wish to add a flag to your number plate, however, if you do,  it’s important to make sure it is positioned correctly and is a valid flag as there are only a limited range of flags permitted on a UK plate including:

  • EU Flag (though this may change in the future as a result of Brexit)
  • St. George Cross
  • Union Jack
  • Red Dragon of Wales
  • Scottish Saltire (St Andrew Cross)

Appropriate Words and Phrases for Your Number Plate

In 2020, 186 number plates were banned by the DVLA for containing rude or offensive words/phrases so your best bet is to go for something safe and don’t push the boundaries. 

It is also against the law to misrepresent the age of your car by making it appear younger. For example, you are not authorised to put a 08 age identifier on a car registered in 2005. However, you could put 08 on a car from 2020, so make sure to check your car’s registration date before purchasing a personalised number plate. 

Looking to Buy or Sell Number Plates?

If you’re hoping to buy or sell number plates for your car, then look no further. At Plate Trader, we believe that buying or selling a personalised number plate should be as simple as possible and that buyers & sellers should be able to speak with each other directly, without dealers, auction sites, or other middlemen taking a percentage of the sale price.

Check out how you can sell your number plate with Plate Trader or take a look at our wide range of personalised number plates available to buy!

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