UK roads are used by a multitude of vehicles with a variety of different number plates on display. Cars most commonly carry white and yellow plates with black characters, but older models regarded as “classic” can still sport the previously issued silver and black registrations. Motorcycles have their own system for plates, with some models featuring plates at back and front, but most displaying only a single plate at the rear.
Seeing the different ways plates are displayed, you may be wondering where the law stands on the issue and ask the question ‘is it illegal to have no front number plate?’
Motorists caught displaying their registrations incorrectly can be stopped by traffic police, fail MOT tests and even pay fines of up to £1,000. It is also illegal to re-arrange the letters or obscure a number plate rendering it hard to read.
Read on for everything you need to know to avoid unnecessary fines and stay on the right side of the law.
Vehicles with no front registration
It is against the law in the UK for cars to display no front number plate. All cars on the road are required to display registrations at both the front and rear of the vehicle. The number plate at the front of the car must be white with the index marks clearly visible in black. The rear plate must also show black letters and numbers, but on a yellow plate. Both front and back plates must be made from reflective material to increase their visibility in low lighting conditions. The practicality of this law means that it is possible to tell the front of a vehicle from the rear of the vehicle by seeing the reflective plate and determining if the vehicle is facing you or away from you. This aids navigation, especially at night where a vehicle may not be running and have lights.
The laws governing motorcycle number plates are quite different. Any bike registered on or after September 1st 2001 must not display a registration at the front of the vehicle. A single registration plate must be displayed at the back and, like the ones used on cars, must feature black characters on a yellow reflective plate.
Older models from before September 1st 2001 are entitled to show a plate at the front, but aren’t required by law to do so.
Are stick on front number plates legal?
While stick on number plates were once used by famous models of car such as the E-type Jaguar, today they don’t conform to the British Safety standard BS AU 145D and are best avoided. While sometimes added to caravans and trailers, these should not generally be used on cars.
British Safety Standards dictate that the material a number plate should be made from must have “resistance to bending”. It also insists that plates must be resistant to impact. Unlike the sturdy acrylic utilised in modern registration plates, stick on number plates are not as durable and can potentially rip in a collision or accident.
Plates must be marked with the standard to be legal and can only display BS AU 145D if they’ve been appropriately tested. Another important thing to note is that it is illegal for a number plate to contain a background image. The colour behind the text must be solid. To ensure your plates are in keeping with the many laws and fully road legal, you can make your purchase with New Reg. All our vehicle number plates conform to British Safety Standards, offering you peace of mind.
Why don’t motorcycles have front number plates?
As we mentioned, older models of motorcycle can still use a front plate, but bikes registered after September 1st 2001 aren’t allowed to. This wasn’t always so; before 1975 it was compulsory for motorcycles to display a plate at the front attached to the top of the mudguard, nicknamed a “pedestrian slicer”. Modern motorbikes allow far more space for a plate at the back then they do at the front, making it easier to display plates clearly and safely in this single location. The plates positioned on the mudguards of bikes were only visible if you looked at the vehicle side-on and eventually became obsolete. The laws around motorcycles also cover motor tricycles, too.