Number plates are something that many vehicle owners take interest in as a way to personalise their car. You’re likely very familiar with the usual acrylic plates with black characters on top of white and yellow backgrounds, and even the black and silver number plates of some classic cars – some of which are smaller due to shorter registration numbers. Some drivers aren’t content with these standard plates, and pursue customisation options to make their car unique.
Many will get personalised number plates, or private number plates, but others will look for different forms of customisation. This is where problems can arise, as various forms of registration plate customisation are actually illegal, and if you’re caught with incorrectly displayed plates, you could receive a large fine.
Tinted plates are darkened registration plates that many drivers find visually appealing. You may well have seen them around – they’re commonly found alongside other vehicle modifications such as custom bodywork. Popularity and attractiveness aside though, are tinted plates road legal UK number plates?
Tinted number plates – are they legal?
Up until the 1st of September 2021, the question of whether any kind of tinted number plate was legal on UK roads was actually a bit of a grey area. The issue with tinted number plates comes from the fact that the tint itself can make the numbers hard to read, particularly in situations of low light.
This results in the vehicle becoming harder to identify, for both people and speed cameras – and as you can imagine, some people use this to their advantage, which can be dangerous.
As we mentioned though, the questionable legality of tinted number plates has now been cleared up by legislation, as the British Standard BS AU 145e was introduced in September 2021. Information found on GOV.UK clearly states the rules for UK number plates. Here’s a brief rundown:
The law on UK number plates
First and foremost, it’s crucial that number plates are made out of a reflective material. The front plate needs have a white background, and the rear plate needs to have a yellow background. The backgrounds should not be patterned in any way.
Both plates are required to display black characters. These black characters need to be one single shade of black – if they were fitted after September 1st 2021 – and the characters themselves cannot be reflective or removable. It’s also essential that the plates are marked with a British Standard number, and also a British Standard number.
As written on GOV.UK, your registration number must be correctly shown, and can’t be altered to make the letters and numbers harder to read. The characters also can not be rearranged. Anyone caught driving with ‘incorrectly displayed plates’ could receive a fine of up to £1000, and the vehicle will also fail its MOT. Going by these rules, a tinted number plate would count as being incorrectly displayed, and as such, tinted plates are not considered road legal.
To add to this, number plates that are covered in layers of mud, or are obscured in any other way, also count as being incorrectly displayed. Previously issued number plates which make use of 3D characters – which are legal as long as they follow the rules stated above – are also at risk of becoming obscured by dirt, as it can get caked in the corners of the raised characters. Be sure to remember that these rules also apply to private number plates and DVLA personalised registrations!
Tinted number plates – illegal sellers
One common way irresponsible drivers are able to acquire tinted number plates – which they then go on to illegally use on the road – is through dubious manufacturers. These manufacturers sell plates with with illegal colours, tints, and so on, all the while claiming they’re being sold as ‘show plates’.
While this may make the transaction technically legal, it’s safe to say that these manufacturers know what they’re doing – that being providing illegal plates to drivers who intend to break the law.
The concept of ‘show plates’ is, however, worth mentioning, especially if you find the look of tinted number plates to be appealing.
What are show plates?
If you like the way tinted number plates look on a vehicle, show plates definitely might be of interest to you. While it’s absolutely illegal to use tinted plates on the road, show plates – which are number plates that are for display purposes only – are allowed to be tinted, and customised in a lot of other ways, to your heart’s content.
Show plates are a fantastic way to customise your vehicle if you want to display it, for something as simple as photography, or even for things like events and exhibitions. The great thing about show plates is that the sky is the limit in regards to their customisation – you’re free to use any colour, font, and tint that you want, and that includes backgrounds with patterns or other kinds of artwork. The level of customisation is much higher than that of a personalised or private plate.
Show plates are really the only way to go if you have any interest in tinted plates, or any other form of number plate customisation. But always remember to only use them for display – as we keep mentioning, all kinds of tinted or darkened number plates are not legally permitted to be used on the road.
Don’t worry if you still have questions about custom number plates and the laws surrounding them. Our knowledgeable professionals here at New Reg can help you out with any plate related questions you may have, whether that’s about customisation or the law. Be sure to contact us if you need any advice about the legality of your vehicle’s number plates!