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Illegal number plates

Please note:

Regtransfers will not supply number plates that do not meet current regulations. Furthermore, we strongly advise that non-compliant plates should be avoided. Potential penalties for driving with illegal number plates include a heavy fine, MOT failure and the withdrawal (without compensation) of your private registration number.

What is an illegal number plate?

We explained the rules governing the manufacture, supply and display of car number plates on our main number plates rules page.

Number plates that do not contain all the elements required by the regulations must not be used on UK public highways. Number plates that feature additional, non-regulation elements that may affect the clarity or legibility of the registration number must not be used on UK public highways. Displaying such number plates on a vehicle on public roads is an offence punishable by a hefty fine, MOT failure and withdrawal (without compensation) of the registration number displayed.

If one has paid several thousand pounds for a personal number plate then, obviously, the price of using illegal plates can be very high.

A summary of illegal features

If your number plates break any of the current regulations that were in force when your plates were manufactured or bought then your plates are illegal to use on public roads.

The following is a non-exhaustive list giving examples of non-compliant elements that could see you pulled over by the police:

  • Non-regulation fonts

    The Charles Wright font specified in the regulations is the only legal character set for UK number plates. If your plates have fancy or decorative letters, or any other style of characters but the regulation font then they are not legal.

  • Mis-spaced characters

    The spacing between characters, character groups and the edges or borders of number plates are all set out in the regulations. If your number plate does not comply with the prescribed spacings, then it is not legal. Altering the spacing between characters to make it resemble a name, word etc is illegal.

  • Altered and obscured characters or backgrounds

    Altering the appearance of the characters on your number plate in any way (for example, by the positioning of screws and bolts, or with paint, ink or tape, is illegal.

    Obscuring your number plates (for example, by something dangling or hanging from the car in such a way as to block the plates from clear view) is illegal.

    Treating your plates with any substance, paint, spray etc that changes its reflective properties, or that interferes the readability of your plates by humans or by ANPR cameras, is illegal.

    Allowing dirt to accumulate on your number plates to such an extent that it hinders clarity or legibility is illegal

  • Non-regulation emblems and images

    If your plates bear any symbol, letter, number, badge, emblem, image or graphic element not specifically listed as permissible in the regulations then your plates are illegal. Basically, only the characters, borders, flags and panels specified in the regulations may be used.

  • Non-compliant colour or reflectivity of backgrounds or characters

    Number plates must be manufactured and sold by registered makers and sellers. Registered providers have to ensure that their plates are manufactured in accordance with the regulations and the specifications set out in British Standard number BS AU 145e. The standard sets out details of the colour and the reflective properties of number plates. Plates that don't comply are illegal.

  • False or cloned registration numbers

    Displaying number plates that bear a registration number other than the one assigned to the vehicle by DVLA (shown on the vehicle's V5C registration document) is illegal. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, and listed below, displaying plates showing the wrong registration number may result in seizure of the vehicle and additional criminal charges.

The penalties

Currently, the penalties risked by drivers using illegal number plates may include any or all of the following:

  • A fine up to £1000
  • MOT failure
  • Withdrawal of the registration number without compensation. This may be applied whether the registration is the original number assigned to the vehicle or a private registration that was transferred to the vehicle.
  • Seizure of the vehicle.

What is legal on number plates

For full details of the regulations, including all the features and elements that must be included and those that may, optionally, be included on legal number plates may be seen on our number plates rules page.

Additional information about acrylic number plates

For more information about number plates in general, including how to replace lost, damaged or stolen plates, please see our main acrylic number plates page.

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