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Rules and RegulationsRules and Regulations

The current format for vehicle registration numbers was introduced on 1 September 2001 for all new vehicles being registered.

The format is two letters, two numbers, a space and three further letters. The first two letters are the DVLA memory tag, the two numbers (the age identifier) indicate the age of the vehicle, and the last three letters are random.

Vehicle registration numbers must be correctly displayed on number plates as set out in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations (as appropriate).

These regulations govern how vehicle registration number plates are designed, manufactured and displayed.

It is an offence to alter, rearrange or misrepresent the numbers and letters on a number plate to form names or words, or in a way that makes it difficult to read the registration number. For example, you should not use fixing bolts to change any of the letters or numbers.

Anyone with a number plate that does not display the registration number correctly could be fined up to £1,000. In some cases, the registration number may be permanently withdrawn. If you have misrepresented a vehicle registration number that you have been given or bought the right to under the Sale of Registration Marks Regulations, and the vehicle registration number is permanently withdrawn, you would not get back any money that you have paid for the registration number, or any other costs you have to pay.

Also, you cannot use a registration number to make your vehicle appear younger than it actually is. Dateless registrations from 1903 – 1963 can be used on any type of year.

The letters and numbers (characters) on number plates bought since 1 September 2001 will need to meet the following standards.

  • characters must be 79mm tall
  • characters (except the number 1 or letter I) must be 50mm wide
  • the character stroke (the thickness of the black print) must be 14mm
  • the space between characters must be 11mm
  • the space between the age identifier and the random letters must be 33mm
  • the margins at the top, bottom and side of the plate must be 11mm
  • vertical space between the age identifier and the random letters must be 19mm.

Types of Number Plate Surrounds

There are also personalised surrounds that allow motorists to showcase their personalities and individual sense of style. The buyer should make sure that the number plate conforms to the British Standard BS AU 145d. If the plate meets the legal requirements, the buyer can select surrounds for the plate. Number plate surrounds are not as strictly regulated as number plates. Number plate surrounds include side badges, borders, bottom text, and frames.

Side Badges

Side badges are generally located on the left side of a number plate. Many side badges display the British or European flag with the country's name or initials underneath. The side badges may be located on the front or back plates.If you want to, you can display a GB national flag with the letters ‘GB’ on the far left of the number plate.

The flags you can choose from are:

  • the Union Jack
  • St George’s cross
  • the Scottish saltire
  • the red dragon of Wales

The letters you can choose from are:

  • Great Britain or GB
  • United Kingdom or UK
  • ENGLAND, England, ENG or Eng
  • SCOTLAND, Scotland, SCO or Sco
  • CYMRU, Cymru, CYM or Cym
  • WALES or Wales.

NOTE: You’ll still need a GB sticker when travelling in Europe if you display one of these national flags and identifiers.

The flag must be above the identifier. You can’t have the flag or letters on the number plate margin, and neither can be more than 50 millimetres wide.

Euro symbol

If you display the Euro symbol and Great Britain (GB) national identifier on your number plate, then you won’t need a separate GB sticker when travelling within the European Union.

The Euro symbol must:

  • be a minimum height of 98mm
  • have a width between 40 and 50mm
  • have a reflective blue background with 12 reflecting yellow stars at the top
  • show the member state (GB) in reflecting white or yellow

You are not allowed to display any other flag or symbol, and these requirements only apply to vehicles registered in England, Scotland and Wales. For vehicles registered in Northern Ireland, the only symbol that can be displayed is the European logo.

Borders and Bottom Line Text

A thin border may be located along the outside edge of the number plate. Many buyers also choose to incorporate a brief, bottom line text. Border and text colours include black, grey, red, pink, or green. 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.

Note that: 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 and silver plates of either plastic or traditional metal construction, if registered under the Historic Vehicle taxation class.

DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency.PrivateRegs4u.co.uk is not affiliated to the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations. PrivateRegs4u.co.uk is a recognised reseller of DVLA registrations.