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Iceni Magazine | August 9, 2020

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Is Your Number Plate Actually Legal? 5 Things You Should be on the Lookout for

Is Your Number Plate Actually Legal?

Personalised licence plates are becoming popular.

However, it is possible to have an illegal personalised plate, and that’s true even if it was legally issued to you a couple of years ago. Consequences can range from failing the MOT to loss of the plate to a hefty fine. This is why it’s essential that you know if you could’ve been the victim of an unlawful provider, or are making modifications that could make your licence plate invalid. Here are 5 things you should be on the lookout for so that your number plate is actually legal in the UK.


British registration plates are required to conform to a set standard so that they’re easy to read by both police officers and traffic cameras. This is why it is illegal to change the spacing, even if you think it creates a cute message. The default is 4 characters followed by a space, then the remaining three characters. Note that you could end up with this problem because you bought illegal custom plates off the internet. Don’t feel bad if you can’t tell the difference, because one study found that 98 percent of drivers couldn’t tell the difference between legal and illegal number plates.


Your number plate could have the right colour scheme and spacing, but the wrong font can do you in. The only legally allowed font is Charles Wright. Unfortunately, one in twenty British drivers have ordered replacement number plates from an unregistered supplier that didn’t know this, or didn’t care.

This is why it’s important that you only buy replacement number plates from reputable services like Number1plates. Number1Plates has been in the business for years, and have a reputation for offering solid service and multiple, fully legal customisation options. If you want to personalise or beautify replacement plates in any way, they’ll be able to tell you what can be done within the confines of the law. If you want to know more about their products and services, you can visit

Hardware that Gets in the Way of Legibility

Licence plates must be readable. Carefully placed bolts that cut off part of a letter or fill in an O violate the law. Note that anything that interferes with the legibility of the licence plate is a finable offence. That’s why stickers on the licence plate will get you in trouble, too. In fact, dirty and obscured licence plates can result in a fine. Lose your licence plates, and you can get a fine for driving a car without one. That makes getting your missing licence plates replaced a priority. You could even be penalised for driving with a cracked licence plate.


You’re not allowed to change the colour of the letters or background of your licence plate. Number plates must have black characters on a white background if they’re on the front of your car. You can get in trouble even if the characters are grey instead of black. The plates on the back of the car should have a yellow background.


You can have a UK flag on your licence plate. You can have a flag for the EU on your licence plate. Other symbols that are allowed on British plates include the Welsh Dragon, the St George’s Cross, and the Scottish Saltire. However, you aren’t allowed to have any other flag or symbol on your number plate. And know that you can’t add stickers and other decorations to the licence plate.

Rules for Motorcycles and Trailers

People who are carrying trailers or driving motorcycles also need to be aware of the rules that apply to them. All motorcycles that were registered after September 1st, 2001 only need to have a number plate at the back of the vehicle. Also know that numbers on motorcycles and motor tricycles have to be on two lines.

If you’re travelling with a trailer, it needs to have a number plate as well. The plate should have the same registration number as the vehicle towing it. If you happen to be carrying more than one trailer, the last trailer will need to have a plate.

There are also specific rules for commercial or heavy trailers. You might need to register the trailer if you want to travel abroad. In this case, make sure that the towing vehicle’s registration plate and the trailer registration plate are attached to the back, but spaced as widely as possible. Also know that they can be affixed to the side of the trailer if there’s no space on the back, but they need to be clearly visible.

Number plate offences have been rising at ten to twenty percent a year for the past few years, and thousands are fined every year. The worst offences include a thousand pound fine and failed MOT, so make sure that you know the rules so you don’t run afoul of them.

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