Are coloured number plates legal?

Whilst it may be tempting to put your own unique style onto your vehicle, there are lots of rules that you must adhere to. Coloured number plates seem like a tempting choice, but the reality is that they are NOT road legal. Risking the rules by installing a custom number plate that is anything other than the standard white or yellow certainly would see you landing in trouble. 

It’s really not worth choosing a modification that is outside of what is allowed, as making a vehicle change that is not legal could see you face a £1000 fine and points on your driving licence. Of course, you can still make any changes in the form of car show plates, as these are promotional products which are not designed to be used on roads.

At Bespoke Plates, we love custom number plates and think the more unique, the better! But having said that, we do agree that road safety is the most important factor to consider so coloured number plates should remain for show purposes. If you want to learn more about coloured plates and why they are not allowed, keep on reading.

What is a legal number plate?

The best way to understand why coloured number plates are not legal is to understand what the rules are. The latest government guidelines for legal number plates highlight the balance of usability and road safety factors that go into ensuring vehicles are road safe. 

As of 2022, all number plates must:

  • be made from a reflective material – for the purpose of road safety
  • black display characters on a white background (front plate)
  • black display characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
  • not have a background pattern – so as not to distort the readability of your plate
  • be marked to show who supplied the number plate – to assist with thefts and sourcing queries
  • be marked with a British Standard number – this is ‘BS AU 145e’ for plates fitted after 1 September 2021
  • The characters must not be removable or reflective. If your number plates were fitted after 1 September 2021, they must also be a single shade of black.

It is also great news that 3D number plates and 4D custom plates have remained legal. As well as adhering to all the above factors, these plates can also:

As you can see, the colour for the front and back plates is clearly specified, meaning that no other variations are allowed.

Why do number plates need to be yellow and white?

Whilst you may not think that the colour of the number plate matters, it really does! White and yellow number plates have become an intrinsic part of UK road safety, with many rules and regulations being based on their distinctive colours. 

The main reason that these colours are important is that it is instantly recognisable to other road users and pedestrians what way a car is facing. When vision is compromised thanks to dim lighting or bad weather, seeing the flash of either white or yellow lets other road users understand what vehicles are doing. This is also effective when vehicles are non-standard sizes, such as large lorries, as, at first glance, it can be difficult to see what is happening when situations are outside of normal conditions.

The DVLA chose yellow and white as the key colours as they offer the most contrast when compared to the solid black letters, which are also a legal must-have. This means that number plates in this legal format are also catered to those who are visually impaired or for easy reading by road traffic cameras.

Both colours of number plates also feature reflective surfaces, which are visibly most striking when placed on both yellow and white surfaces. It is this component that greatly improves the brightness of the number plates, always making them safe for use. If number plates do not feature a reflective surface, they are classed as illegal for road use.

Hopefully, now you understand that if other coloured number plates were used, it would mean that road safety was severely compromised for others and yourself as a driver.

What is the difference between a legal and a show number plate?

Just because you can’t have coloured custom number plates on main roads doesn’t mean they cannot be used for other purposes. Show plates are favoured for use at events and for PR purposes as they allow someone to make a real statement. If your vehicle is not being used on the main roads, then the sky is the limit for just how bespoke your plate can be. 

Some of the other main differences between these plates are:

  • Legal number plates must be registered with manufacturing and source codes, whereas show plates do not need to include these details.
  • Show plates can have any characters included and do not have to be officially licensed by the DVLA as they are not being used for legal purposes. 
  • As well as coloured backgrounds, show plates can also feature different lettering, various raised profiles, borders, and any other modifications that you would like them to have. 

Show plates also do not have to look outlandish to be considered non-legal. You can check out some awesome examples of both legal and non-legal custom number plates in our gallery to give you a better idea of what your options are. 

What types of custom plates are legal?

If custom number plates comply with the DVLA’s guidelines for a legal product, they are also completely legal. Our custom 3D and 4D number plates all boast the traditional plate colours making them perfect for road use and MOT compliant.  

As a DVLA-certified producer of number plates, we take number plate manufacturing very seriously. As a result, we have worked hard to ensure we are not only registered by the DVLA as legal suppliers but that our plates meet every need outlined. Our 3D number plates and further enhanced 4D raised custom plates are completely legal when the traditional yellow and white backgrounds are used.

Where can I get coloured number plates made for show purposes?

The best place to get a professional show plate manufactured is from a DVLA-approved supplier. This is because although a show plate is designed to stand out and look different, it should still honour the same basic styling that a standard number plate has. Without this, you run the risk of it not looking professional and potentially negatively representing the vehicle. 

At Bespoke Plates, we make the process incredibly simple! If you want something out of the ordinary, then we are the manufacturers for you. 

Simply choose what type of custom number plate you would like to start your order. If you want something that will stand out, then any of our plates would set you in the right direction. A 3D plate features gel letters covered in acrylic resin for a slightly raised profile. Alternatively, if you want something even bold, our 4D custom plates boast higher-level acrylic characters coasted in resin for a chunkier finish. Whichever style you choose, you can get created with the colour of your plate and the character styling if you are not looking for it to be used as a legal number plate. 

Our team then make your number plate in the same way as we would for a legal plate, as the quality levels never differ. By ensuring that the finish is of the highest standard, you are guaranteed to be able to use your original plate for many years to come.

You will likely also want to consider how your number plate is attached to your vehicle if you are using a coloured show plate. We would recommend a screw-fixing number plate installation as this means you can easily swap out your show plate for a legal one if you then want to use the vehicles on the roads. Whichever option you decide on, our team can make any plate a shiny reality. 

Do you want to investigate the options of a coloured number plate?

Whilst we have outlined that for your number plate to be road legal, you must comply with the DVLA rules, we still offer a range of customisable options for show plate purposes. 

Coloured number plates are a brilliant way to add character to your vehicle for a promotion or event. You could also gift one as a display item for a vehicle fanatic if you are looking for a unique gift that is a bit different. Whatever your reason for wanting a different plate, we are always on hand to ensure you are safe on the roads and happy with your bespoke item. 

Want to find out more? Check out some of our recent blog posts:

What do 4D number plates look like? 

What is the most expensive number plate? 

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