private number plate

As a leading, established and legally certified provider of number plates, we at Bespoke Plates understand the responsibility we hold when it comes to our services. When it comes to plate legality, we are often asked many questions, one of which being ‘Are custom number plates illegal?’

We thought it would be helpful to provide you with some answers when it comes to the legality of the plates we sell.

We at Bespoke Plates sell 3D plates, standard registration plates, 4D plates and electric number plates. All of these are made within the legal stipulations that have been outlined by the DVLA. The only exception is in the creation of show plates.

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What makes a number plate legal in 2023?

In 2021, to educate motorists on the correct standards for number plates, the government released new standards relating to the legal requirements. Whilst these rules did not change dramatically, they did outline in more precise detail the regulations that custom plates need to adhere to.

The conditions that your number plate must meet are:

  • 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.

Your personalised number plates can also:

As you can see, the instructions are clear, encompassing both 3D and 4D number plate designs within the approved list. Further recommendations also state the British standard number should be permanently marked, non-retroreflecting, a single colour, and be no less than 3mm x 10mm in size.

Old plate legality

However, any number plates produced before September 2021 will include the ‘BSAU 145d’ code. The rules state that as long as your number plate was legally compliant at the time of purchase, then it will still be the case now. Therefore, the new rules did not omit any previously legal number plates but defined the approved remits in more detail.

As long as your plate was legal when you decided to invest in it, you are fine. Should your plate not be deemed legal, you will be subject to a £1000 and a failed MOT making your car not road-worthy.

These rules also showcase that the controversial opinions around raised numbers do not affect safety. In 2020, there were rumblings that perhaps these forms of number plates may have been made illegal, but it was decided that as long as they are made correctly, they are still safe to use.

2022 plate changes

Further to the release of new standards in September 2021, March 2022 saw three new changes come into force. These amendments to number plate production reflect not just legal requirements but also have been designed to ensure that vehicles are roadworthy for longer due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Number plates have new durability standards.

Plates now need to be tougher and extra-durable to withstand destructive materials that can be found on the road. Encouraging road users to ensure their plates are abrasion free, our 3D and 4D plates are a brilliant example of how you can invest in a customer number plate to ensure your car is compliant.

Two-tone colours have been banned.

Characters must only be in solid block colours for 3D and 4D plates. Acrylic lettering is fine, but solid colours must be used to ensure that the colours are not distorted even when the light hits.

More details are now legally required on plates.

Location identifiers, including the address and postcode of the supplier, also need to be included.

Are custom number plates illegal?

Yes, to a degree.

As we have established previously, as long as your plate is within the aforementioned rules, it is roadworthy. Although show plates are legal to own, they are illegal to use on the road. Show plates differ from other custom plates (like the 3D or 4D plate) as they offer complete customizability.

Show plates

Whilst we provide show plates we must disclose clearly that show plates are illegal to use on public roads. Using a show plate on any public road could lead to a fine of £1000 and can also get points added to your license, however, using a show plate on private property is perfectly legal. We make mention of this with every purchase and/or installation of show plates.

With show plates, you have more freedom in personalising your plate, the reason it is illegal to use whilst driving on a public road is due to some designs being harder to read for other road users, whilst alternative backgrounds, spacings and character raising can make technologies such as speed cameras and ANPR’s struggle to recognise the plate.

Driving a vehicle from public to private land with show plates on is also illegal.

Due to the level of customisation offered for a show plate, the colour, or character spacing and formation (and non-compliance of plate coding) will likely be the factors that contribute to it failing an MOT as well as it being illegal to use on a public road.

We can provide regular, 4D or 3D coloured show plates, with whatever colour or design you decide to choose, but this is at your discretion, the legalities we have previously mentioned will be reiterated when you receive your plate.

What about private plates?

As an authorised seller of private plates we are here to also inform you on the legality of private plates.

You are only able to buy legal private number plates from either DVLA auctions or from their licensed sellers. Private plates are all pre-approved and created by the DVLA. As such, they maintain a library of legally registered private plates that can be sold to dealers or customers, all supported by legal documentation.

You must always research where you are buying your private number plate from, as illegal plate sales are on the rise. Your dealer or auction house should always be able to provide you with a view of their documentation which approves them as a legitimate seller when you ask to see it.

You can also gain peace of mind if you book to attend an auction which has been listed on the DVLA’s official list of upcoming events as they all will be adhering to the private plate rules.

Once you buy your number plate, you will always be provided with the legal documentation, which is the V750. Another way to ensure that your seller is genuine is to ask to see a copy of this beforehand.

As with our own collection of private registrations, most resellers will only stock a selection of designs, so alarm bells should always ring if someone gives you a large selection.

Private plates must have either a V750 certificate or a V778 retention document to prove you have legal ownership and the right to use the bespoke design.

The V750 is the document that assigns the actual registration mark to the new owner. This document will be needed for assigning a plate and for selling in the future. The V778 is the retention document needed to keep ownership of a private plate and to be able to use it legally on the roads. Valid for ten years, it only needs to be renewed if the plate is not currently assigned to a vehicle.

If you have lost these documents, you can apply for replacements, but you will need to be able to prove another way that you are the legal owner of the plate to eliminate fraud issues. To do this, you will need to prove your identity which the DVLA can use to match you with the owner they have on record.

Get in touch with bespoke plates today

As one of the established number plate makers in the UK, we at Bespoke Plates have all the options you can ask for, as an approved licence vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

So browse our options today to get the plate that speaks to you, and speak for you, with Bespoke Plates. We hope to have answered the question ‘Are custom number plates illegal?’ whilst providing you with insights to our expert services.

Want to read more about all things plating? Check out our blog. To get in touch and discuss the full fitting service we offer with our plates you can talk to one of the members of our team by:

  • Email –
  • Phone – 0333 006 7878
  • Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,



M8 8NN

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