Personalised number plate spending topped £100m in the UK last year as a record 334,000 registrations were sold, according to official statistics from the DVLA. Further growth has been predicted for 2017 and beyond as the popularity of private number plates continues to skyrocket.
However, many don’t know the laws surrounding number plates, and could unwittingly find themselves falling foul of the DVLA guidelines. Some examples of illegitimate number plates are obvious, such as those that display offensive messages. For example, a driver with a personalised number plate that bore a resemblance to the word ‘jihad’ was withdrawn by the DVLA in summer 2017.
However, many breaches of the law are less obvious, meaning you could be falling foul without realising it. Here are some of the most common questions answered to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
How many characters can a private number plate have?
Number plates must have a minimum of two characters and can have no more than seven.
Can a number plate have more than two groups of characters?
Number plates can only display a maximum of two groups of characters.
Do the characters on my number plate have to be a certain size?
Characters on plates issued after 1 September 2001 must be:
- 79mm tall
- 50mm wide (except for 1 and I)
- The stroke (thickness of the black print) must be 14mm wide
- Characters must be 11mm apart
- The space between groups must be 33mm
- The margins at the top, bottom and side of the plate must be 11mm
- Vertical space between the groups must be 19mm
Do the characters on my number plate have to look a certain way?
- The font cannot be changed and must be the font set by the DVLA.
- 3D characters are allowed.
- You cannot put in screws into the plate to change the appearance, as number plates must not be obscured in any way. Doing so is illegal and you can be fined up to £1,000 for doing so.
What colour should my number plates be?
- Front plates must be a reflective white.
- Back plates must be a reflective yellow.
- Different background colours are not allowed.
- Tinted plates are illegal, as this again would constitute obscuring the number plates.
I’m a motorcycle driver, do these laws apply to me?
- Motorcycles registered after 1 September 2001 must only display a number plate at the back of the vehicle.
- Those registered before can also display one at the front.
- The plates are subject to the same standards as those on cars.
If towing a trailer or a caravan, does it need to display the same number plate as my vehicle?
- The trailer or caravan must display the same number plate as the vehicle you are towing it with.
- If you are towing more than one trailer, the number plate must be attached to the trailer at the back.
What are the rules about the date of the number plate?
- You cannot assign a registration mark from a year that comes after the year of registration of your vehicle. This would make your vehicle appear younger than it actually is.
- Your vehicle’s age is the ‘first registered’ date. This is not necessarily displayed on the number plate, but will be stated on the vehicle’s V5 registration document.
What national flags can I have on my number plate?
You can display one of the following flags (with identifying letters) on the left-hand side of the number plate:
- Union Flag (UK)
- Cross of St George (ENG)
- Cross of St Andrew – alternatively known as the Saltire (SCO)
- Red Dragon of Wales (WALES, CYM)
- Euro Flag (GB)
The flag must be above the identifying letters. The flag and letters cannot be in the number plate margin, and neither can be more than 50 millimetres wide.
If you have the Euro Flag on your number plate, then you won’t need a separate GB sticker when travelling through the European Union.
The Euro symbol must:
- Be a minimum height of 98mm
- Have a width between 40 and 50mm
- Have a reflective blue background with 12 reflecting yellow stars at the top
- Show the member state (GB) in reflecting white or yellow