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Number Plates: Rules and Specifications

Rules Governing Display and Appearance

Numberplate 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, as follows:

For the purposes of measuring spaces etc, each character, regardless of its shape, is treated as a rectangular block of dimensions 79mm x 50mm (except the number 1 and the letter I).

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

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

The colours and reflectivity of number plates are also specified in the regulations, and there is a British Standard (BS AU 145d) 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.

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


  • White front plate (to British Standard BS AU 145d)
  • Yellow rear plate (to British Standard BS AU 145d)
  • 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

Permitted but not required:

  • 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.

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.

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.

To quote the DVLA: “Vehicles constructed before 1.1.73 may display traditional style ‘black and white’ number plates i.e. white, silver or grey characters on a black plate.”