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Are the DVLA Encouraging Misrepresentation of Number Plates?

DVLA Warning for Motorists as Number Plate Changes Introduced

March 1st sees the roll out of the new “23” registration numbers, which replace the “72” plates that have been issued since September 1st, 2022. New age identifiers are introduced every March and September. However, as the new number plates appear, the DVLA has issued a stern warning to drivers to make sure their number plates are legal or they could risk a fine of up to £1,000.

According to the DVLA website, "Number plates (also known as licence plates) must show your registration number correctly. You cannot rearrange letters or numbers, or alter them so that they’re hard to read. You could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates."

Some drivers try to obscure digits on their number plates or use strategically placed different colour screws to alter the appearance of digits. That can land you with a fine, and even having too much dirt on your plate puts you at risk of being stopped. You can be issued with a £100 on the spot penalty if the police pull you up for having an illegally altered or unreadable plate.

Number Plate Format

The current format for number plates was introduced in 2001. The first two letters denote the region where the vehicle was first registered, the two numbers show the year it was issued, and the last three letters are randomly selected. There must be a space between the year identifier and the random letters. Other strict rules are applied to the design of number plates.

Since 2001, all digits must be in the “Charles Wright” font and must conform to specific height, width and spacing. In January 2021 the new British Standard for Retroreflective Number Plates was introduced. The new plates are constructed from tougher material which is more resistant to vibration, bending and damage from road debris and severe weather.

Plates have to display the British Standard “BS AU 145e”, along with the supplier’s name and postcode. The letters and digits must be a solid black colour. Different shading that was used to create a 3D or 4D effect has been banned, but raised letters are allowed. The changes make it easier for ANPR cameras to read the plates.

A Contradiction From the DVLA? Some Personalised Number Plates Need to be Mis-spaced

While the DVLA tells drivers their personalised number plates have to conform to the strict rules, the agency themselves continue to sell off expensive registration numbers that would have to be mis-spaced to mean anything.

With the increasing popularity of private number plates, many people are prepared to pay a lot of cash for a plate that spells their name, nickname or something else meaningful to them. But, if motorists can’t change the spacing, why would the DVLA enter such number plates into auctions instead of issuing these plates via the normal system?

Here are some examples of number plates that need to be mis-spaced or otherwise altered:


  • A551 MMS £1,000


  • A25 EAN £1,400


  • A57 YLE £3100


  • JV51 NGH £6,200

THE GOAT "Greatest Of All Time"

  • THE 904T £20,200

70 IAN

  • 701 AN £8,890


  • THE 571G £8,400

Even if mis-spaced, these plates would conform with all the other regulations and can still be easily read by ANPR cameras. However, it’s up to you to ensure your plates are legal if you don’t want a hefty fine.

While some unscrupulous number plates suppliers are prepared to break the law and make up illegal plates, all personalised number plates supplied by CarReg fully comply with the current legislation whom are a DVLA Registered Number Plate Supplier (RNPS). Anyone wanting to legally supply the physical number plates in the United Kingdom must register with the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

When it comes to trying to make a name on a personalised plate, many private number plates often require mis-spacing to give the fully desired effect although some will still be able to tell what the registration is supposed to represent without mis-spacing. Names like J4 MES or RO13 ERT do not but even then reducing the legal 30mm space between the numeric and the letter may "improve" the overall appearance when made up. Classic dateless registrations containing Initials with numbers generally do not.