Driving assessment

Motorists risk £1,000 after number plate rule change

MOTORISTS could face a hefty fine for driving with illegal number plates following a little-known rule change earlier this year.

Several changes went into effect March 1 with a few key differences in how the license plate lettering is displayed.

The new plates are designed to withstand more wear. Plus, they’ll be easier for cameras and surveillance equipment to track. This means that some license plates could be considered illegal.

Research performed by the vehicle leasing company Rental Options reveals the simple mistakes we could all make that could invalidate our license plates.

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What makes the new plates different in 2022?

Any new number plates produced will comply with the British Standard for retro-reflective number plates and will include the following updates:


License plates shall display solid black lettering. They cannot feature a 3D effect, as this is now illegal. Block lettering was introduced to ensure that Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems can easily detect numbers and letters.

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Spacing, type size, and font should follow set guidelines, including:

  • The space between the characters and the margins at the top, bottom and sides must be 11 mm
  • Space between age ID and random letters should be 33mm
  • Characters should be 50mm wide and 79mm high. However, the letter L and the number 1 are not as wide.
  • The font has been the same since 2001 – the Charles Wright font.

Apart from a few vintage car or historic vehicle exceptions, the front number plates must have a white background and the rear plates must have a yellow background.

The formation of letters and numbers must also follow the specific format of the year. For example, newer models have two letters (first registration ID) followed by two numbers (year of first registration). Three random letters then follow that. Letters and numbers cannot be rearranged or spaced incorrectly as this is illegal.

Plates can still be acrylic or plexiglass as long as all other criteria are met.

New rules have come into effect.

Location ID

When purchasing new plates, it is now mandatory to display the name and postcode of the company where you purchased them. In addition, the license plate manufacturer must also be visible.

Motorists are concerned about this addition. It has been reported that people fear that cars are more easily tracked without the owner’s permission.


As the UK has officially left the EU, number plates will now read UK instead of GB. The plates will also have a Union Jack flag rather than the EU flag. The flag must be on the left side of the number plate. The ID number should be below.

Number plates may display the Union Jack and specific country identifiers such as the red dragon of Wales and the cross of St George.

Consequences of incorrect license plates

License plates must be displayed correctly to comply with traffic laws. Letters must be clear and in block letters. Numbers and letters must not be rearranged or changed in any way.

Some illegal license plates are obviously different from standard plates. So if the police spot them, you’ll be in hot water.

There is a fine of up to £1000 for incorrectly displayed number plates. Your car will also fail an MOT if it fails to meet the standards.

BS AU 145e standard license plates

The new BS AU 145e standard number plates replace the old BS AU 145d standard. This came into force from 2021 from registration 71′. These new plates are made with durable materials and have undergone several tests to approve the technical inspection.

The evaluation included the addition of an abrasion test. This checks to see how the material copes with dirt and road debris and general external elements.

Prohibition of 3D and 4D license plates

All license plates containing letters and numbers displayed with 3D or 4D effects are illegal.

This two-tone look does not allow for a clear display of the license plate. This in turn affects the readability of Automatic License Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.