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

Several changes came into effect on March 1 with some key differences in how number plate lettering is displayed.

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

Research carried out by the vehicle leasing company Leasing Options reveals the simple mistakes we could all be making that might invalidate our number plates.

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What makes new plates different in 2022?

Any new registration plate produced will meet British Standard for Retroreflective Number Plates and include the following updates:


Number plates will have to display solid black lettering. They cannot feature a 3D effect, as this is now illegal. Block lettering has been introduced to ensure that Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems can easily pick up numbers and letters.

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The spacing, character size and font should follow set guidelines, including:

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

Apart from some classic car or historic vehicle exceptions, front number plates should have a white background and rear plates a yellow background.

Letter and number formation should also follow the specific year format. For example, newer models have two letters (first registration identifier) followed by two numbers (year first registered). Three random letters then follow this. Letters and numbers can’t be rearranged or spaced incorrectly as this is illegal.

Plates can still be made of acrylic or Perspex as long as all other criteria are met.

Chester and District Standard: New rules have come into affect. New rules have come into affect.

Location identifier

When you purchase new plates, it is now a requirement that the name and postcode of the business of where you bought them are displayed. In addition, the number plate manufacturer should also be visible.

There is some concern from drivers about this addition. It has been reported people are worried about cars being tracked more easily without the owner’s permission.

New UK identifier

As the UK has officially left the EU, registration plates will now read UK instead of GB. 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 identifier number should be below this.

Number plates can display the Union Jack and specific country identifiers such as the Red Dragon of Wales and Cross of St George.

Consequences of incorrect registration plates

Number plates have to be displayed correctly to adhere to road laws. The letters should be clear and in block lettering. Numbers and letters should not be rearranged or altered in any way.

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

There is a fine of up to £1,000 for incorrectly displayed reg plates. Your car will also fail an MOT if they don’t meet the standards.

BS AU 145e standard number plates

New BS AU 145e standard number plates replace the old BS AU 145d standard. This came into effect from 2021 from the 71’ registration. These new plates are made with durable materials and underwent several tests to approve roadworthiness.

The assessment included the addition of an abrasion test. This checks to see how the material faces up to dirt and road debris and general external elements.

Ban on 3D and 4D number plates

Any number plates that contain letters and numbers displayed with 3D or 4D effects are illegal.

This two-tone look does not provide a clear display of the registration plate. In turn, it affects the readability of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.