DVLA number plate law in the UK


What is the number plate law in the UK?

How many of us realise that there are strict laws regarding the display of number plates in the UK?

With so many companies out there selling so-called "show plates" and supposedly road legal number plates, it's no wonder there's so much confusion. So what does it all mean? And are there any laws for number plates in the UK? Or can I have whatever I want?

What are legal number plates?

There are some very tight rules around the display of number plates in the UK. Down to the millimetre. The DVLA specify exact number plate rules.

That means...no fancy text, no football emblems or cartoon characters, and no messing around with the spacing. And definitely no distortion of letters or numbers.

Legal number plates must have the following:
  1. Maker's ID,
  2. Postcode, and
  3. BSAu145d
And when you ask for a number plate to be made up, you will be asked for your ID and proof that you are entitled to the registration number. These are required by law.

So if all of these don't apply, then the number plates are not legal.

Where do you get legal number plates?

Manufacturers must be registered with the DVLA, and follow number plate law. You can check on the DVLA's Register of Number Plate Suppliers. If your supplier isn't on there, they are not a supplier of legal number plates.

If your supplier doesn't ask for ID, the number plates are not legal.

What are "show plates"?

Some manufacturers get around the number plate law by selling so-called "show plates". These are not road legal number plates.

Why do websites sell non-legal show plates?

Some websites offer you options for images and different fonts. These are supposedly for car shows etc. and are not meant for use on the road. Read the small print...! If your number plates are not compliant with the law, they could get you an on-the-spot fine (currently £60).

Why have number plate laws?

The DVLA requires number plate suppliers to check you are entitled to the registration number you have requested. This is to stop fraudulent number plates being used in criminal activity.

The letters and numbers should comply with the rules, to make them easy to read and identify the vehicle. After all, that's what they are there for in the first place!


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