Is your car number plate legal? If it doesn't meet these DVLA rules, you could be fined up to £1,000.

The penalty for driving a car with an illegal number plate is a fine, plus an automatic MOT fail.

There are strict requirements laid down by the DVLA, which must be followed for your vehicle to be road legal. 

Here's what happens if you don't  

A Ferrari driver was pulled over by Thames Valley Police officers on the motorway for breaking the rules with his number plate.

Officers stopped the bright red supercar on the M4 when they noticed they couldn't spot its number plate on the front.

When they inspected it, they found a 'very, very small' illegal registration plate that was a fifth of the size it was supposed to be.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The driver was slapped with a £100 fine and was ordered to buy a suitably sized plate.

So what does the law say?

The gov.uk website lists a number of conditions that must be met.

The number plates on a vehicle 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

Characters on a number plate can be 3D, the DVLA says.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Pic. PA

The characters on a number plate need to be a certain height and size.

  • 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

And what about motorbikes?

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Pic. North Wales Police

Motorcycles and motor tricycles registered on or after 1 September 2001 must only display a number plate at the rear of the vehicle.

  • If you ride a motorbike or motor tricycle registered before 1 September 2001 you can also display a number plate at the front, but you do not have to.
  • Motorcycle and motor tricycle number plate numbers should be on 2 lines.

What about personalised plates?

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Picture - Mark Hemsworth

You can buy a private (personalised) registration for your vehicle’s number plates from DVLA or from a private dealer.

If you have the right to a private number that is not currently being used, you can apply to assign it (put it on) to a vehicle.

If you do not want to use your private number anymore you can apply to take it off your vehicle. You can keep the number (put it ‘on retention’) to use later.

You’ll get a V778 retention document proving you still have the right to use the number.

  • What do the numbers and letters mean on registration plates?

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: