The front number plate must be present on any vehicle used or parked on UK roads, and it must have a white background - unless it is above a certain age (you’ll find more information on this below). The plate must display the current registration number for your car, van or other vehicle clearly and correctly. Letter, numbers and the spacing between them must not be adjusted in any way.
What if I don’t comply?
Failure to comply with the DVLA rules can lead to a fine of up to £1,000. Your car will also fail its MOT test if your number plate is not road-legal.
Why must the front plate be white?
Number plates in the UK are white at the front and yellow at the rear for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can see at a glance which way a vehicle faces when it is approaching or you pass it, which may have safety implications and help you to act fast to avoid a collision.
When following another vehicle, the rear yellow number plate does not cause glare. It is against UK law to show a white light on the vehicle’s rear. As glare could lead to a serious accident. This is again in the interests of safety.
Only used on front vehicle plates, white provides the clearest background colour, with characters standing out very well against it.
What other number plate rules are there?
Number plates in the UK must adhere to the strict rules of the DVLA. White for front number plates and yellow at the rear is just one of many rules motorists risk a fine by breaking. Some of the others that apply to motorists in the UK are as follows:
Vehicles registered before 1973
Firstly, there are different rules that apply to vehicles registered prior to 1973. If your car or van is older than this, then you can choose to use traditional black plates with silver, grey or white letters and numbers on them if you prefer. The number plate must still meet strict size and spacing criteria, which are outlined by the DVLA for vehicles of this age.
Age of car
You cannot put a number plate on a car that suggests the vehicle is newer than it really is. If this were permitted, then car buyers could be misled regarding the age of a vehicle they were buying.
Only one font can be used when number plates are made. This is the Charles Wright font, and this rule applies to any vehicle that is either stored or driven on a public highway. It is also illegal to use italics.
Size and spacing
All number plates must conform to DVLA rules regarding size and spacing. The organisation has very strict criteria regarding the exact placing of each character used in the registration, including the letter or number’s height and width, as well as the size of the spacings.
How do I get road-legal number plates?
All UK number plates have to be produced and sold by a DVLA-approved, registered supplier. You can access a list of these on the DVLA website, where you can search by postcode for a supplier near you. Take identification such as your driving licence with you, as the supplier should ask to see it. You will also need the vehicle’s V5 (log book), as it proves your right to use that specific registration plate for that car or van.