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Illegal Number Plates Across The UK

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drove away from their wedding with one that read JU5T Wed. Boxer Amir Khan has one that reads BOX IIIG. Even 70s singing sensation Engelbert Humperdink has one on his Rolls Royce Corniche that reads EH 1. You may love your personalised number plate – but are you sure it’s legal?

Yup, personalised number plates are enjoyed by celebrities and non-celebs alike, whether as a bit of cheeky wedding fun or just plain showing-off! Although a personalised number plate usually costs from £200 to £2,000, some of the more sought-after registrations can change hands for an awful lot more! The most expensive numbered licence plate ever was classic car dealer John Collins, who paid £518,480 for the plate registration of '25 0', which was displayed on his £10million Ferrari. Before that, the plate 'F1' was the most expensive plate every purchased from a DVLA auction for £440,000 in 2008. 

But if you’re thinking of investing in custom number plates yourself, you need to be aware that there are strict rules governing what can and can’t be done to personalise a number plate. If you order online or buy from a market stall, you may simply assume that the number plate is legal. 


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Wrong! The DVLA are extremely specific about the font that can be used (italics are banned), the font size and even the spacing between the letters on number plates, and not all plates on the market meet these requirements. It’s also vital that you get the correct paperwork to register your personalised number plate with the DVLA, or it won’t be legal. It’s illegal to keep, as well as drive, a car with a personalised number plate so you can get into trouble without even getting into your car! And be aware – if your number plate is obscured, even by dirt, that also makes it illegal!

If you’ve got a personalised number plate, and you’re worried that it might not meet the DVLA’s requirements, it’s important that you check this out as soon as possible. You can only get number plates made up from a number plate supplier registered with the DVLA, like Click4Reg. The DVLA sells personalised number plates, and runs auctions across the country about six times a year. For more information, and to look at the numbers coming up, visit their website.


Photo credit: GagliardiImages/Shutterstock 

But what happens if you’re caught out? Data supplied to us via a Freedom of Information Request from 34 out of England’s 39 police forces shows that an eye-watering 5,395 people were fined or prosecuted for possessing an illegal number plate in 2015. Although full data isn’t yet available for 2016, our Freedom of Information request revealed that at least 3,385 people had received penalties for this motoring offence by November 2016. 

The highest proliferation of illegal number plates was found in London – the London Metropolitan and City of London police forces jointly gave out a whopping 886 penalties in 2015 – with Northamptonshire apparently offending least, with no fixed penalties or prosecutions. Maybe Northamptonshire has the most law-abiding motorists in the country!

The penalty for driving a car with an illegal number plate is a fine of up to £1,000, plus an automatic MOT fail. Ouch! Keeping a car with an illegal number plate is also an offence, so don’t assume you’re safe if you don’t get behind the wheel.

Don’t forget, we live in a surveillance state with an estimated 8,300 traffic cameras making 30m “reads” of number plates across the country each day! That’s more than 10 billion a year! So chances are you WILL get caught!

Not worth the risk, is it?


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Click4Reg offers private registrations from both stock numbers & private sellers. DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. Click4Reg Ltd is not affiliated to the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations. Click4Reg Ltd is a recognised reseller of DVLA registrations, please see our terms & conditions for further details.

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