Number plates

Motorcycles and tricycles number plates

There are separate provisions for motorcycles and tricycles. Basically motorcycles registered after 1.9.2001 must only display a number plate at the rear of the vehicle. Motorcycles registered before 1.9.2001 can display a number plate at the front but are not required to.
Tricycles derived from four wheeled bodies i.e. saloon cars must meet the normal requirements above whereas tricycles derived from motorcycles must meet the requirements for motorcycles.
Character height 64 mm
Character width (except the figure 1 or letter I) 44 mm
Character stroke 10 mm
Space between characters 10 mm
Space between groups 30 mm
Top, bottom and side margins (minimum) 11 mm
Space between vertical lines 13 mm

Traditional plates for vehicles constructed before 1 January 1973

Vehicles constructed before 1.1.1973 may display traditional style “black and white”
plates i.e. white, silver or grey characters on a black plate.

Number plates fitted before 1 September 2001

Number plates fitted before 1.9.2001 must display characters that meet the
dimensions shown in one of the two groups below:
Group 1 Group 2
Character height 89 mm 79 mm
Character width (except the figure 1 or letter I) 64 mm 57 mm
Character stroke 16 mm 14 mm
Space between characters 13 mm 11 mm
Space between groups 38 mm 33 mm
Side margins (minimum) 13 mm 11 mm
Top and bottom margins (minimum) 13 mm 11 mm
Space between vertical lines 19 mm 19 mm

Requirements for a motorcycle number plate to be legal

The Mandatory Typeface

All number plates made after 31.8.2001 must display the mandatory typeface. Number plates made prior to this date must be substantially the same.

The British Standard

The British Standard sets out the physical characteristics of the number plate. This includes visibility, strength and reflectivity. The British Standard also requires each number plate to be permanently and legibly marked with the
following information:-

  1. The British Standard number (currently BS AU 145d)
  2. The name, trade mark or other means of identification of the manufacturer or component supplier
  3. Name and postcode of the supplying outlet


It is an offence to alter, rearrange or misrepresent letters or numbers in order to form names or words or in such a way that makes it difficult to read the registration number. Characters must not be moved from one block to the other e.g. AB51 DVL must not be displayed as AB5 1DVL or AB 51DVL. Vehicles with illegally displayed number plates may FAIL the MoT test. The police can also issue fixed penalty fines for illegally displayed number plates. Offenders are liable to a MAXIMUM FINE of £1,000 and in some cases the mark may be withdrawn.
For vehicles with new or replacement number plates fitted after 31.8.2001, “3-line” number plates are no longer permitted.

For more general information on registration plates –

For a downloadable version of ‘Vehicle registration numbers and number plates’

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