Find out how what the legal requirements are for personalised number plates and how to change yours
In the UK, it is a legal requirement for your vehicle to have a registration plate fitted.
However, there are a number of restrictions that you must consider before you go ahead and stick any old plate on your motor. Incorrect plates could land you with a fine of up to £1,000, and will result in the failure of your vehicle’s MOT.
What legal requirements are there with standard number plates?
As of 2001, the standard format for a vehicle registration plate is:
- Two letters (the region in the country where your vehicle was first registered)
- Two numbers (when it was issued)
- Three randomised letters.
How do personalised number plates work?
If you wish to buy an alternative plate for your vehicle, you must first ensure that you are adhering to the government requirements for personalised plates.
A private number plate must:
- be made from a reflective material
- display black characters on a white background (front plate)
- display black characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
- not have a background pattern.
Where can I buy a personalised number plate?
You can buy your plate from a number of different websites, including the DVLA Online. You must make sure that your personalised plate is fitted by a registered number plate supplier, and you can find your nearest one here.
Remember that you must provide formal identification as well as your vehicle registration document to prove that you are entitled to drive the car. Click here to find out what specifications your car must fulfil in order to apply for a private number plate.
How much do personalised number plates cost?
Personalised number plates can range in price depending on the desired format, starting at a couple of hundred pounds and going into the thousands. In fact, a recent report found that £111 million was spent on private plates in the UK alone in 2017.
What personalised number plate can I have?
Searching for a personalised number plate is simple, and can be done using the DVLA’s online database. Simply search for your desired plate and access its price and availability. Many opt for an abbreviation of their name, initials or date of birth.
The DVLA have previously banned numerous applications of number plates which are considered offensive or rude. A spokesperson for the agency commented that they have a “clear policy of withholding potentially offensive registration numbers.”
Can I transfer a personalised number plate to another vehicle?
You will be able to transfer your personalised number plate if you are the registered keeper of the vehicle. If you sell your vehicle before you move the registration, you will be unable to transfer it. The DVLA operate on the basis that if you don’t move it, you’ll lose it.
Will having a personalised number plate increase my insurance?
Every insurance supplier operates differently, with some categorising a personalised number plate as a form of car modification. However, this is not always the case and you should check with your own insurance company to find out how you may be affected.
Admiral Car Insurance do not treat number plates as a vehicle modification. When insuring with us, customers need to to change their registration on their policy once the number plate has been fitted to the car and the car's V5 document has been changed.
If you don't inform the DVLA, there's a risk that they will think the vehicle is uninsured.
Read our guide to find out which vehicle changes you should make your car insurer aware of.
Which type of vehicle requires a number plate?
Motorbike Motorbikes or Motor tricycles are only required by law to have a number plate on the rear of the vehicle. The number must be displayed across two separate lines.
If you are towing a trailer behind your vehicle, you must ensure that both your car and the trailer display the same registration number. This plate must be positioned at the very back so it can be easily seen by those behind you.
There is currently no law in place that requires cyclists to fit a registration plate onto their bike. However, a Halfords “Sharing the Road” 2017 report posed the suggestion to respondents. 59% of people backed the introduction of number plates for bicycles, proposing that it may encourage more responsible cycling and therefore safer roads.
How can you protect your number plate against theft?
Exterior fittings such as number plates are the most frequently stolen item in incidents of theft from vehicles, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Number plates can be used to disguise or ‘clone’ your car in incidents of insurance-dodging or fuel theft.
Roland Head, founder of SimpleMotoring.co.uk said that “stolen car number plates are commonly used by criminals for all sorts of offences, including speeding, parking offences, fuel theft from garages and vehicle identity cloning.” But how can you avoid this?
Firstly, follow our usual advice to keep your car thief-proof, including parking in a well-lit area, or even in a storage space if possible. If you wish to take it one step further, consider opting for theft-resistant number plates.
The AA advise that these “may cost a little more, but are designed to resist known attack methods, and will break apart if someone tries to remove them by force.”
The police also suggest a deterrent effect by etching your car’s registration number onto the windows, which can “put criminals off, [making] your car more difficult to sell”.
If you follow these steps and you are still the victim of number plate theft, contact the police immediately. The quicker you are able to disprove that you were driving your vehicle at the time of the incident, the better.