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Governing rules for number plates

This page describes the rules governing the display of physical number plates.

If you are looking for information about changing your car's registration number, please follow the link to our number plate guide page.

Number plates fonts and spacing

Motorcycle number plate specifications

When the current registration format was introduced in 2001, regulations governing the construction and display of car number plates were revised. These revised regulations apply to the number plates on any and all vehicles registered on or after 1st September 2001. They also apply to all replacement plates made and mounted on vehicles on or after the same date.

Number plates must now use one specific, mandatory typeface: 'Charles Wright 2001'. Hard-to-read variants, such as multiple stroke and italic fonts, are now prohibited. The one decorative variation still permitted is a 3D effect version of the mandatory typeface. The size and spacing of number plate characters is specified in the regulations.


Identifiers, flags and borders

Optionally, number plates may display one of the following national emblems:

  • British Union flag with 'GB' or 'UK'
  • English flag (St George Cross) with 'ENG'
  • Scottish flag (St Andrew Cross) with 'SCO'
  • Welsh flag (Red dragon on green/white field) with 'WALES' or 'CYMRU'
  • Euro flag (circle of stars) with "GB".

If the Euro/GB configuration is displayed, then the bearer vehicle need not display a separate "GB" emblem when driving within the EU.

Acrylic specification

The colours and reflectivity of number plates are also specified in the regulations, and there is a British Standard (BS AU 145e) which describes the physical characteristics of number plates, including: visibility, strength and reflectivity. Front plates must have black characters on a white background, while rear plates must have black characters on a yellow background.

The British Standard also requires that a number plate must be marked with the following information: the British Standard Number, the name, trade mark, or other means of identification of the manufacturer or component supplier, the name and postcode of the supplying outlet. A non-reflective border is optional. There may be no other markings or material contained on the number plate.


What is required and permitted on UK road-legal number plates

Required

  • White front plate (to British Standard BS AU 145e)
  • Yellow rear plate (to British Standard BS AU 145e)
  • The registration number of the bearer vehicle in the mandatory font (black 'Charles Wright 2001')
  • Spacing of characters and character groups in accordance with the measurements specified in the regulations. Variation is not permitted.

Optional

  • 3D variation of the mandatory 'Charles Wright 2001' font
  • Coloured, non-reflective border
  • National emblem: English St George Cross with "ENG" legend, Scottish St Andrew Cross with "SCO" legend, Welsh Dragon with "WALES" and "CYMRU" legend, British Union Flag with "GB" legend) or Euro Stars symbol with "GB" legend.

Not permitted

No additions or variations are permitted. Common illegal variations are

  • Fancy or decorative typefaces
  • Bolts placed in such a way as to alter the appearance of characters
  • Adjusted spacing between characters or character groups
  • Altered characters
  • Additional logos or symbols, such as sporting emblems and religious symbols.

Historic vehicles pre-1973

There are concessions for older and vintage cars. "Historic vehicles", i.e. those built prior to 1973, are permitted to bear the old-style black plates of either plastic or traditional metal construction. Refer to the document Vehicle registration numbers and number plates for more information. Find your perfect private number plates with our themed searches.

Need some guidance?

See our How to buy a number plate page. Our page on car registration plates explains the different kinds of plate layouts you may see.

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The role of DVLA

Car registrations and number plates, including personalised number plates, in the UK are the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle licensing Agency, usually known as the DVLA. It issues new registrations twice a year and also maintains the central database that records details of all vehicles licensed to drive on UK roads, along with their keeper and registration information.

Regtransfers works closely with DVLA to complete registration transfers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Regtransfers is a DVLA registered supplier of personal car registrations and number plates and is listed on the DVLA Registrations website. All number plates supplied by Regtransfers comply with DVLA's prescribed standards and regulations.

DVLA administers all UK registration transfers and issues updated registration documents when the registration number of a car is changed, or when a registration is removed from a vehicle and placed on a retention document in accordance with the DVLA Retention Scheme.

DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. Regtransfers is not affiliated to the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations. Regtransfers is a recognised reseller of unissued Government stock.

Number plate regulations

When a car is on the road, it is an offence to display number plates bearing any number other than the vehicle's officially recorded registration number. If you purchase a private registration, you must complete the official transfer process before displaying the new number.

All registration number plates displayed on UK vehicles must comply with the official number plate regulations. DVLA oversees enforcement of number plates display regulations and maintains a register of approved manufacturers and retailers of vehicle number plates.

Regtransfers is not part of, and is not formally affiliated with DVLA.

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