Law and guidance for the display of UK Number Plates

The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 specifies the geometric characteristics of letters and numbers and the associated British Standard that UK number plates must conform to. The general rules and advice notes of this section are summarised just below, for further specifics please check the relevant section:

  • A number plate must be displayed at both the front and rear of motor vehicles. There are some exceptions.
  • Characters must be black on a white plate at the front and black on yellow at the rear of the vehicle.
  • The background surface should be reflex reflecting (the characters must not be).
  • Character size and spacing must conform to one of the following groups as appropriate:
    • Number plates fitted after 1st September 2001
    • Number Plates fitted between 1st January 1973 and 1st September 2001
    • Vehicles constructed before 1st January 1973 (traditional number plates)
    • Imported Vehicles
    • Motorcycles and Tricycles
  • The voluntary display of the Euro-symbol/flags with national identity is permitted.
  • Number Plates must be easy to read and meet the British Standard.
  • You must supply proof of entitlement and identification when purchasing number plates.

The law is quite clear on the display format of number plates and the following points should be observed:

  • Number plate fixing bolts/screws that alter the appearance of any characters are not permitted.
  • The letters or numbers must not be altered, rearranged or misrepresented in any way.
  • Characters must not be moved between groups. For example J28 HTL must not be displayed as J2 8HTL or J28HT L.
  • Generally, the mandatory character font must be used (or very similar) - no stylised characters in italics or otherwise are legal.
  • For vehicles with new or replacement number plates fitted on or after 1st September 2001, "3-line" number plates are no longer permitted. The following example is not allowed:

    Example of a 3 line number plate

All number plate suppliers must be registered with the DVLA.

Offences may result in any or all of the following:

  • The police can issue fixed penalty fines for number plates displayed illegally.
  • The registration number may be withdrawn.
  • The vehicle may fail the MOT test.
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