Whether an aluminium plate is legal for you to use on your car will depend on several factors, including when your vehicle was first registered and how old it is.
Pressed aluminium number plates
Aluminium number plates, sometimes known as “pressed plates”, are a style of registration featuring alphanumeric characters raised from the background. Unlike modern 3D-style plates – where the characters appear raised using a two-tone effect – the letters and digits on these pressed metal number plates are raised by the manufacturing process of pressing.
Aluminium plates and the law
There’s no doubt they look impressive, but are aluminium number plates legal? Aluminium-pressed number plates can make more of an impression on the road than the ubiquitous white and yellow acrylic registrations issued and used today. These stylish plates were once the standard issue type of registrations for cars to carry, but from March 2001, new guidelines were issued detailing how number plates must be displayed.
While these rules do not specifically say that a plate cannot be made of metal and must be manufactured from acrylic, they do state qualities not typical to aluminium. The British Standard (BS AU 145d) states number plates on UK cars must be crafted from reflective material and stipulates that the reflective treatment can’t be added to a plate that is made from material that isn’t inherently reflective. Pressed plates made from aluminium wouldn’t meet the approved standard.
Additionally, another standard laid down by the guidelines demands that the material a number plate is made of must have the capacity to retake its original shape if it’s bent. Metal number plates don’t have the flexibility to achieve this.
Due to these two requirements, pressed aluminium number plates are typically rendered illegal for modern vehicles. There may be options for thinner more flexible aluminium that is made reflectively available, but only purchase your registrations from number plate specialists like New Reg to be confident your car is road legal.
When is an aluminium number plate legal for your car?
Cars registered in the UK in 1972 and before were originally issued with pressed aluminium plates. Subsequently, this means that cars that fit into this category are considered ‘classic cars’ and can still use aluminium number plates today. It’s worth remembering though, that although they can be crafted from aluminium, they must still conform to all UK regulations for number plates at the time they were issued.
To ensure vehicles using these traditional silver and black aluminium number plates can still have their registrations read easily during day and night, the plates are treated, rendering them retroactively reflective.
Vehicles from before the 1950s can use white and black painted aluminium plates. This style of registration features a marginally different size for its letters.
Cast aluminium number plates are an even older style of registration. These plates can legally be carried if your vehicle was registered during or prior to the 1930s. These metal registrations were manufactured using molten aluminium. The characters of the registration were moulded into the same cast, producing a complete plate.
Classic cars with pressed plates
Cars that are over 40 years of age, and have not been substantially modified, are deemed ‘classic’ by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and because of this are given several perks. Among these benefits are no longer being required to undertake an annual MOT test, although the car must still be able to operate in a condition deemed roadworthy. They are also no longer required to pay road tax.
These classic cars also enjoy another benefit – they are legally entitled to display pressed metal plates with white or silver characters on a black background instead of the acrylic plates in white and yellow issued today. This exemption rule for cars older than 40 years annually continues each year on April 1.