Purchasing your first Private Number Plate

Buying a new car is an exciting prospect and everybody wants to add some character to his or her vehicle. They might show this in the model they choose to buy, accessories they display, or by purchasing a private registration.

Personalised registrations are a way of making one’s car truly unique. However, there are several rules and regulations, which should not be ignored. It is extremely important that number plates are visible for witnesses of accidents or crime, police and roadside cameras to view, and it is in every driver’s best interests to adhere to these rules.

New drivers have enough on their minds to worry about without making the mistake of displaying an illegal plate. The law does not permit any of the following:

1) Logos or graphics, such as sporting emblems and religious symbols. These can be displayed elsewhere on the vehicle.
2) Decorative typefaces, such as italicised fonts. These may prevent the registration from being easily distinguishable. The ‘Charles Wright 2001’ font is the only typeface permitted by law.
3) Fancy backgrounds, such as honeycomb designs. Again, these result in the plate being less clear.
4) Altering of characters. This may be done by altering the spacing, or placing bolts in a particular place to change the characters that are actually on the registration.

The government has issued a precise ruling when it comes to the spacing of characters on a plate. There must be a space of 11mm between each character and each character group must be 33mm apart. (The groupings must not be altered.) Individual characters must be 79mm high and 50mm wide and the width of each character stroke must be 14mm. Only the characters 1 and I are exempt from this rule.

Can I make any changes at all to the background of my plates?

Apart from the option of a coloured, non-reflective border, there aren’t any other changes permitted. By law, all characters must be displayed in black and the front plate must have a white background, while the rear must have a yellow background.

National Emblems
The topic of National emblems is an ambiguous one, and this is because, apart from the Euro Flag option, they are not officially recognised in the regulations. However, the government has said that they are permitted, and it is expected that the required amendments regarding this subject will be made in the near future.

Drivers may choose from the following National emblems: -
  • British Union Flag with “GB” legend
  • English Flag (St. George’s Cross) with “ENG” legend
  • Scottish (St. Andrew) with “SCO” legend
  • Welsh (green dragon on green/white field) with “Wales” or “Cymru” legend
  • Euro Flag (circle of stars) with “GB” legend.
No other changes are permitted but one may display a 3D effect on number plate characters.

Can I choose any registration number, or are there rules here too?

The most attractive thing about private number plates is that one can choose whichever registration best suits them. However, there is one rule that must be considered when seeking out a plate: One cannot display a plate that would make their vehicle appear newer than it actually is.

When purchasing a plate, the age of your car will be one of the first questions asked, so this type of error should not occur. It is important to know this information beforehand though to avoid disappointment.

Other than this single rule, it is entirely up to the buyer to decide which registration to purchase. And it is recommended that anyone looking into this should get clued up on the language of number plates. This “Plate Speak” allows for many more possible registrations to suit individuals. For example, a mobile DJ may wish to highlight his job and interest. To do this, he could choose a registration, such as D15 CDS (Discos) by using similar characters to those desired.

There are so many options out there, and seeking a plate out can be a lot of fun. But don’t forget that the rules are there for a reason.