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How Many Characters Are on a Standard UK Vehicle Number

When it comes to understanding a UK number plate, it may sometimes be confusing to understand what the characters may mean. Is it all random? Or is there something more to it?

In this blog, we will answer the question ‘How many characters are on a standard UK vehicle number plate?’

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, 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.)

Have UK number plates always been the same?

Have UK number plates always been the same?

No, UK number plates have undergone multiple changes since cars became a regulated means of transport. The key changes have happened over a 100+ year period, with the last format change taking place in 2001, over 20 years ago. Below is a brief history lesson on UK number plates…

  • 1903: This is when the very first number plates were issued. They originally had a simple format of a single letter and number. Starting from A1. This continued until combinations had run out, as new vehicles were being developed.
  • 1920s: A slight change came into play where local authorities got their own letter prefixes, this allowed the plates to become identifiable to where they were made or resided.
  • 1963: The format then changed once again. This introduced additional characters and numbers for even more combinations, to keep up with the production of newer vehicles.
  • 2001: This is where the current format featuring location codes, age identifiers, and random letters had been introduced.

How many characters are on a standard UK vehicle number plate?

How many characters are on a standard UK vehicle number plate?

On a standard UK vehicle number plate, there are no more than 7 characters on the plate. Every vehicle is assigned its own number plate, the default number plate follows a certain format.

UK number plates can be simple to read once you understand the format. It is as follows…

  • The first two letters of a number plate tell the reader where the vehicle was first registered. In the UK, one region can have many regional identifiers. For example, a vehicle registered in London can have the following regional identifiers ‘LU, LV, LW, LX, LY.
  • The following two numbers identify the year in which the vehicle was assigned its plate. For example, a car that has a plate assigned from London in 2020, could have the following first four characters ‘LW20’.
  • The final three letters of a UK number plate are picked completely at random. This saves cars that are registered in the same place, and get their plate in the same year, from being completely the same.

Can a UK number plate have less than 7 characters

Yes. However, they are not the default number plate a UK vehicle will be assigned. A number plate that has fewer than 7 characters will likely be a private number plate. Private number plates are legal to use, but must have the appropriate ownership documents in order to use.

Unlike regular number plates, private number plates can range in price to a large degree, from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Do all number plates have the same amount of characters?

No. Across the globe, number plate regulations will vary. Some may have more or fewer characters than a UK number plate. The character format may also be different. In a vast majority of cases, if you are driving your car in a foreign country, you require specific permits in order to drive with it, if at all.

Can a standard UK number plate get customised?

Yes. A standard UK number plate can be customised, within reason. The UK government has a limitation on the customisation you can obtain for your number plate. Any customisations that go beyond these specifications are technically considered a show plate.

Show plates are illegal to use on a vehicle that is being used on public roads. Here is a brief look at the legalities regarding number plate customisation.

The stipulations of the number plate rulings are as follows…

The number plates on your vehicle must:

  • Be made from a reflective material.
  • Display black characters on a white background (front plate).
  • Display black characters on a yellow background (rear plate).
  • Not have a background pattern
  • Be marked to show who supplied the number plate
  • 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. To read the full guidance on number plating in the UK, click here.

Please be mindful that regulations can change gradually or immediately, always be sure to check the latest guidance regarding number plating if you are going to invest in a new one.

How do I customise my number plate?

Whether it is a private plate or a standard plate, getting your own bespoke custom number plate is relatively simple. In most cases, you can even do it from the comfort of your own home! If you opt to use Bespoke Plates, you can order a custom number plate directly from our website.

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.
  7. Confirm your order!

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

Why are number plates checked during an MOT?

MOT’s are undertaken to ensure the safety of yourself and other road users, not to mention pedestrians too. But how does a number plate fit into this?

Number plates, if they are loose, can be a health hazard. However, if they are damaged to the point they can not be read, or are obstructed due to dirt for example, this can also lead to a failed MOT.

This is because an unidentifiable number plate is illegal, and can not be verified as a legally allowed vehicle by ANPRs or other plate recognition technology.

Upgrade your number plate today

Upgrade your number plate today

In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options and the information you need to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to have confidently answered the question ‘How many characters are on a standard UK vehicle number plate?’

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:

Email info@bespoke-plates.co.uk

Phone 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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