🔍 Everything about car registration plates

03 March 2021, 14:38

Need to change your car's license plate? Read our article to learn more about license plate approval and how to change your license plates.

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Your car's license plate also called a number plate, is an essential and mandatory element allowing the identification of your car, and has been around since the beginning of the 20th century.

🇬🇧 The registration system in the UK

Since 1904 all motor vehicles in the UK need to be entered into the official vehicle register and have a license plate.
The DVLA, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, is in charge of that. They oversee the two current systems: one for Great Britain and one for Northern Ireland. 
The system for Great Britain dates back to 2001 while the one for Northern Ireland is very similar to the original one from 1904. Both systems use the international vehicle registration code GB. 

Each license plate in the UK is made up of the following: 

  • 2 letters identifying the area code where the car was first registered, called a memory tag. 
  • 2 numbers that tell you when the car was first registered, called the age identifier. 
  • 3 random letters. They never include I and Q as they can be too easily confused with 1, 0, or O. In addition the DVLA doesn’t allow combinations that could be deemed offensive. 

✔️Compliant license plate

All number plates in the UK must be made from reflective material. 
Industry-standard size is 520 mm × 111 mm. Rear plates should be either the same size or 285 mm × 203 mm.
The front plate always shows black characters on white and the rear plate has black characters on yellow. 
Characters need to adhere to a certain standard of height, size and need to be in Mandatory font. 
The service provider making the license plate must be a registered number plate supplier and approved by the DVLA.

❌ Non-compliant or missing plate

It is important that your license plate shows your registration number correctly - you are not allowed to rearrange any digits or make them harder to read on purpose. If you fail to comply you could not only be fined up to £1,000 but your car will also fail its MOT

🔍 License plate information

The license plate provides access to a lot of information about a car.

  • If you are buying a car you can immediately identify how old it is. A car owner is permitted to use an age identifier that is older but not newer than the vehicle. 
  • In case your car gets stolen it can get more easily identified by someone remembering the area code letters. 
  • You can find out if a car is up to date on its tax or if it has been registered as SORN (off the road).

🙋 Can I personalise my license plate?

1 - License plate number
You do have the possibility in the UK to choose the registration number of your car. You can either buy it online from the DVLA or at an auction. If you want to use a number that is currently not in use you can ask to have it assigned to your vehicle.
Keep in mind that when you buy your dream license plate at an auction or through a dealer you will usually have to pay quite a bit more than when going through the DVLA directly. 

In order to get a personalised number plate your car has to be registered and taxed in the UK. Certain restrictions do apply like not being allowed to use a newer age certifier. 

2 - Flags & symbols
You are allowed to add a Union Flag, Cross of St George, Red Dragon of Wales, or Cross of St. Andrew to the left side of your number plate. In addition, you can add national identifiers like GB, UK, SCO, CYM, and WALES. 

🔧 Change license plate

Is your license plate damaged, making it unreadable? It is important to change it because driving with an illegible license plate is prohibited.
On the other hand, you are allowed to keep your license plate when you change your car. This way you don’t have to pay for and memorise a new one!

Where to make a license plate?

You can only get a number plate made up from a registered number plate supplier. The DVLA can tell you which suppliers in your area are authorised. 
You will need to show proof that you are allowed to use the registration number (like the V5 vehicle registration certificate) and of course an ID.

Different types of license plates will have different prices. There was even a case when someone paid over £500,000 for the license plate of their dreams! But don’t worry - as long as you are not too fussy with about personalised number plate they are relatively cheap.

How to change a license plate?

Most motorists leave it to professionals to change their car's license plate. Obviously, you will have to pay for the labor, which will vary from garage to garage. To get the best price, compare the garage offers on Autobutler by clicking here.

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If you want to change them yourself, here are the steps to follow:

  • Disassemble the old plates (front and back) by removing the rivets that secure the plate. The easiest method is to use a drill.
  • Drill out the new plates, being careful to match the holes with those on the bumper.
  • Secure the plate to the bumper using riveting pliers. Place the plate on the holder, then insert the first rivet. Press the pliers and when you hear a "click", it means that the rivet is in place.
  • Do the same with the second rivet.
  • Afterward, you can attach the second plate.
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