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The low-down on UK car registration plate laws22-Apr-2015

Did you know that there are strict rules and regulations covering the subject of vehicle registration plates? They dictate everything from the colour to the font. There's room for flexibility and to add a few personal touches, but you need to know where your limits are. 

Buying personalised registration plates can provide the perfect opportunity to make your car seem even more unique and to project some of your own personality onto your vehicle. After all, why shouldn't your car (one of your most prized possessions) be an extension of you?

Remember the following rules when you're buying private number plates:

  • Use a reflective material
  • Reflective materials enable other road users to see your car's registration number when you're driving in the dark. It's against the law to have a vehicle registration plate that isn't made out of a reflective material.
  • Use the right colours
  • The front registration plate should be white. The rear registration plate should be yellow. Both plates should have black text.
  • Don't use a patterned number plate
  • As well as being the right colour, your vehicle registration plate should be free from patterns. Patterns and designs can make it hard to read the letters and numbers, which is why they're not legally allowed.


2001 saw the introduction of a standard easy-to-read font on registration plates. Altering your vehicle's number plate in any way, for example by adding extra lines using a marker pen or positioning bolts so that they can cause confusion, can result in a £1,000 fine. Very specific rules regarding the font used include the rule that letters and numbers must be 79 mm tall and 50 mm wide. The spaces between characters are also dictated by rules and regulations.


For motorbikes and mopeds, reg plates must be written over two lines.

Additional decorations

You can choose to have the EU symbol, the Union Flag, the St George's Cross, the Scottish Saltire or the Welsh Dragon included on your vehicle's registration plate along with the letters 'GB' for identification when travelling abroad. The letters 'UK', 'ENG', 'SCO', 'CYM' or 'WALES' are also acceptable. There are strict regulations, again, about how these symbols and letters must be displayed. Only the EU symbol and 'GB' are accepted legally for overseas identification, though the other symbols and letters may be forms of unofficial identification.