Are Custom Number Plates Legal?

Are you looking to customise your number plate, but don’t know what exactly is legally allowed and what isn’t? This is a query we have dealt with many times in the past, so we thought it would be appropriate to share the facts to anyone who may be wondering.

In this blog, we will answer the question ‘Are custom number plates legal?’

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, and regular / Electric Vehicle Plates and more. We are the one-stop shop for all things registration plates!

Whether it’s a Private Plate, Gel Plate, Standard Registration Plate or plating accessories, we have you covered.

As a certified and experienced team of plate fitters and makers, our plates are installed to the specification of UK law, provided alongside the appropriate paperwork you require. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

What is a custom number plate?

What is a private plate?

A custom number plate is a term for a number plate that has one or more modifications. These modifications can range in the size of the number plate, its shape, or the design of the characters. Here are the types of custom number plates you can get.

3D / 4D number plates

3D and 4D number plates are a type of number plate that affects the characters of the plate. The result is the characters appearing raised from the plate, creating a 3D aesthetic. The difference between 3D and 4D plates is essentially just the look of the characters themselves. Though the materials used for each option do vary slightly.

Both 3D and 4D options are also coated in a special resin after application of the characters. The result of adding this resin is an extra layer of durability, as well as a glossy and eye-catching finish.

Hex plate

A Hex plate is an alteration that is made to the shape of the number plate. The result is the number plate having an elongated hexagonal shape, as opposed to the regular rectangular shape.

Can electric plates get customised?

Yes, electric number plates, which are known for their distinctive green band on the left side of the plate, are able to get customised too. 3D, 4D and Hex plate options, including various plate sizes, are available for electric plates.

Are custom number plates legal?

The 10 most expensive private number plates ever sold in the UK

Yes, a custom number plate is legal, as long as it follows the structure of UK number plates per the ‘BS AU 145e’ 2021 British Standard, (unless it is a private plate). Besides this, the plate must also have black characters against a yellow or white background.

Raised characters are permitted on a number plate, additionally there is no stipulation on the shape of the number plate, as long as the characters fit, and the plain yellow or white background is visible. This means that 3D and 4D number plates, in addition to Hex Plates, are perfectly legal custom plate options.

Which custom number plate is illegal?

This is where some confusion arises. You can still have a plate with 3D or 4D characters that is still illegal, this instance can occur if you are driving with a show plate.

A show plate is designed specifically for show, it can be used as an ornament, a gift, or memento. The customisation options available for a show plate are almost limitless, depending on the manufacturer you use. These options can include but are not limited to…

  • Plate or character colour.
  • Character size
  • Character spacing
  • Symbols, designs etc.

Show plates are illegal to use on a car whilst driving simply because they are not a legally assigned identifier for your vehicle, it is essentially a decoration.

What happens if I drive with an illegal custom plate?

A custom number plate should not be used on a vehicle that is driving on a public road. Breaching this law can leave you subject to legal consequences such as…

  • Arrest
  • Towing of the vehicle and seizure of the plate.
  • A fine.
  • Points on your licence.

The punishment for driving with a plate like this can be more severe depending on the circumstances in which you are stopped.

Are custom number plates worth it?

Absolutely, provided you are using the services of an established custom number plate provider, the end result is worth it. Custom number plates are an affordable and unique touch of individuality you can legally add to your vehicle.

If you have already taken the time to customise your car, whether that’s the interior and/or exterior, it means you care for your car. Caring for your car is like caring for your home, you want to decorate it in ways that express who you are, which is exactly what a custom plate can do for you.

How to order a custom number plate

Bespoke Plates makes the hassle of getting yourself a brand-new number plate easy and efficient. Here is the process.

By following these steps, you will also have the option to see the plate before making a decision.

Visualising how your plate can look in real-time, with the characters from your actual registration plate, saves time and makes it easy for you to know what you want before you get it. Let us walk you through the process of choosing your plate through us.

  1. Head to the Bespoke Plates website
  2. Select the plate style you want under the “Build Your Plate” tab. Alternatively, you can follow this link.
  3. Enter your registration (You can press ‘preview’ to see your registration with all the modification options you have selected.)
  4. When selecting your chosen plate, you can opt for 3D/4D options, a Hex plate, and whether you want a legal plate or a show plate.
  5. Select preferred optional accessories.
  6. Decide if you are collecting with installation, or if you want it to be delivered.

Installing through Bespoke Plates ensures the best service & secure installation for your number plate, along with guidance for any questions you may have.

How can you spot an illegal number plate?

How to spot an illegal plate seller

Sometimes spotting a number plate is easy, other times it could take more than a glance to understand the incongruities that an illegal number plate displays, here are some signs you can spot on an illegal number plate.

  • The spacing of the plate’s characters are too wide and/or inconsistent.
  • The plate does not have a yellow or white background.
  • The characters of the plate are not black.
  • The plate looks to be made from a flimsy material.
  • The number plate characters are hand-drawn.

What should you do if you see an illegal number plate?

If you spot an illegal number plate, you should contact 111 and report it. If you’ve accidentally perceived a legal custom plate as illegal, the operatives responding to the call will be able to check the database to confirm its legality.

Should your report be correct, you can expect the owner to be located and dealt with accordingly. If you see an illegal custom plate attached to a vehicle committing a crime, dial 999 immediately and provide the details they ask for.

Create a custom plate today

In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options, and the information you need in order to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to answered to have answered the question, ‘Are custom number plates legal?’

We hope that we have provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs.

Bespoke Plates has all the options you can ask for, as an approved registration vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

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:


Phone: 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store:

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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