Is a Broken Number Plate Illegal?

Having a broken number plate is a massive inconvenience and affects your ability to travel freely in your vehicle, but is a broken number plate illegal?

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 need. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

How do number plates break?

There are multiple factors that contribute to a number plate breaking. This can be from a crash or other instances of high velocity impact, to driving off-road in unsuitable environments, to theft or even improper attachment to the bumper.

What exactly is a broken number plate?

A broken number plate is a term used to define number plates that have extensive damage on them that results in one or both of the following…

  1. The plate is misshaped and dented to a degree where the characters are difficult or impossible to read.
  2. The plate has broken into two or more pieces.

Does my number plate have to break to be replaced?

No, you can replace your number plate at anytime, you can do this through purchasing a standard replacement plate, a 3D or 4D number plate, or a Hex number plate.

In these instances, the characters must be the same as your vehicle’s original number plate, unless you have your own private plate.

Can I replace my number plate myself?

Yes, you can replace a number plate by yourself, provided that you have a replacement plate made from a legally certified vendor. In addition to this, having the correct tools and expertise to remove the old plate and replace it with the new one is a further requirement to be able to replace a number plate yourself.

Is a broken number plate illegal?

How to fit 4D number plates

Owning a broken number plate is not illegal. However, driving with a broken number plate is certainly illegal. This is mainly due to the fact that your number plate is not identifiable, as the breakage means that some characters on the plate are compromised in terms of readability.

The issue of legality arises because a vehicle that is not identifiable is much harder to keep track of through systems like ANPR, and requires more luck to find the owner, and the vehicle itself. And if this vehicle is involved in criminality, it is important that it is found immediately to prevent further harm and distress to the public.

Can I drive if only one of my plates are broken?

No. Your vehicle should be driven with both the front and rear number plates. Of course, an exception to this could be when you are driving directly to the place you want to get the replacement from.

During this journey, it is advisable to place your plate, or what remains of it, by the dashboard window, or rear window respectively. This may not prevent you from being questioned by authorities, but it will show that you’re not trying to bypass the rules of the road, as long as your only journey is to get the plate refitted or replaced.

How can I prevent my number plate from breaking?

Opting for a 3D or 4D Number Plate is a good start in helping to prevent your plate from breaking, as these gel plate counterparts provide a nominal level of additional durability.

To further protect your plate, we would also recommend purchasing a number plate holder, this houses your number plate, rather than leaving it exposed, which in turn adds another layer of protection for your number plate.

Plate replacement options – Gel plates

Bespoke number plates: How to get custom number plates

Gel plates come under the category of 3D & 4D Plates, these are specialised plates in which the plate’s characters are raised and provide a distinctive effect, they also provide a nominal increase in durability.

Are gel plates legal?

Yes, our plate modification options excluding Show Plates are entirely legal. Our legal options are 3D, 4D, and Hex Plates. As long as you follow the highlighted rules from the DVLA, you will be legally compliant to drive with the aforementioned modified plates.*

*Please do your due diligence and research, some unverified registration plate providers may not be making their plates to the legal specification, which could become an inconvenience for you. Visiting Bespoke Plates is the best way to avoid this trouble.

Alternatively, using the government gateway to find licenced, and approved platemakers is the best option for peace of mind and finding platemakers close to you. Enter your postcode on the government gateway website.

The legal requirements of number plates

The legal terms that a registration plate must adhere to are:

  • be made from a reflective material – for 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 registration 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
  • Characters must not be removable or reflective. If your registration plates were fitted after 1 September 2021, they must also be a single shade of black.

You can find the full list of legal requirements here.

How to replace your number plate

Whether you want to replace your registration plate because of physical damage or loss, or you just want a different style of plate, we at Bespoke Plates make the process 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.

Bespoke Plates – Contact us

Are all front licence plates the same?

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 have answered the question ‘Is a broken number plate illegal?’

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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