UK Vehicle Registration Numbers

Example of illegally spaced number plate designed to read as William Gorol
Vehicle registration numbers must be correctly displayed on number plates as set out in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001.

There are strict rules set out that govern the layout, fonts and character specifications used on UK number plates and general rules are laid out on how number plates must be displayed.

If these rules are not followed then it can be seen as an offence:

  • Number plates must be lit during the evenings
  • Registration marks must be readable and not covered by dirt
  • Vehicles must have number plates fixed to them
  • Number plates must be laid out in the correct size, colouring, font and spacing
  • Owners cannot alter or rearrange numbers and lettering on their number plates
  • Plates should follow the British Standard for number plates including the trademark of the plate supplier
  • No other images should be used on number plates except approved images such as the Euro flag and other flags
  • A non reflective border is optional


Motorcycle number plates must be displayed at the rear only.

Two line number plates are standard for motorcycles registered after 1st September 2001 and motorcycles registered before this date can display a three line plate, but it is against the law to display a one line plate on a motorcycle regardless of the date of registration.

Format of vehicle registration numbers

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.

Reg Plate

For example, SC signifies Glasgow, 07 represents  1st March 2007 – 31st August 2007 and SWD are random letters.

The age identifier changes every six months in March and September.

Anyone with a number plate that does not display the registration number correctly could be fined up to £1000 and in some cases, the registration number may be permanently withdrawn.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the right to under the Sale of Registration Marks Regulations, and the vehicle registration number is permanently withdrawn, you would not get back any money that you have paid for the registration number, or any other costs you have to pay.

You cannot use a registration number to make your vehicle appear younger than it actually is.

Getting number plates made

You can only get a number plate made up from a registered number plate supplier.

The registered supplier will need to see original documents that:

  • prove your name and address
  • show you’re allowed to use the registration number

Beware of using online unregistered number plate suppliers, especially those who don’t want to see your documents – there is no guarantee these will be road legal and you could be throwing your money away!