Are short-length numberplates road legal?

When out and about you may have seen cars on the road with numberplates that are shorter than standard length. Although it’s been possible to get shorter numberplates made for many years, it seems to have recently gained popularity with motorists who have shorter, personalised registration numbers. But are they legal?

General rules for numberplates

When it comes to ensuring your car’s numberplates are legal for use on the road, there are a few rules that can be found on the website. They are that the numberplates on your vehicle must:

  • Be made from a material that is reflective
  • Display black characters on a white background on the front of the car
  • Display black characters on a yellow background on the rear of the car
  • Not have any form of pattern on the background
  • Be British Standard (BS) marked in order to show who supplied the plate

The characters on the numberplates themselves must not be reflective.

Numberplate character spacing

There are also rules in place with regards to the spacing of the characters on your numberplates, which will be relevant when deciding whether short numberplates are legal. The rules are as follows:

  • The height of each character must be 79mm
  • The width of each character must be 57mm
  • The thickness of each character must be 14mm
  • The space between each character must be 11mm
  • The space between character groups must be 33mm
  • Any vertical lines should have a space of 19mm between them
  • The top, bottom and side margins must be a minimum of 11mm

Providing all of the above criteria are met, your numberplates will be legally spaced. So that begs the question: if you have a personalised registration number that consist of less than the standard seven characters, can you have a shorter numberplate? Well the answer is yes, you can. Providing the margins about the characters are at least 11mm along the top, bottom and both sides.

So if you have a 5 character personalised registration for example, then you should be able to shave at least 57mm off each end of your numberplate. The result will be a look similar to this:

Short numberplate
Clean look or distasteful modification? You decide

It may not be to everyone’s taste, and some cars will look better suited to such a modification. More exotic cars and supercars tend to be designed without the numberplate mounting as much of a consideration, so a shorter numberplate in this instance could really compliment the look. Having a shorter numberplate is also a really good way to draw attention to your personalised registration if you’re fortunate enough to own one that is less than five characters.

Whether more common cars look good with such a modification is subjectively down to whoever is looking at it. However, the answer to the question remains that you can shorten the length of your car’s numberplates providing that the spacing rules are all adhered to.





4/5 - (6 votes)

Is it legal to change the spacing between characters on my numberplate?

The rules state that there must be a space of 11mm between each character on your numberplate, and 33mm between each group of characters. Any spacing different to this would not be road legal

I have several 1s in my numberplate, can I space them more closely?

When it comes to vertical lines, there needs to be a space of 19mm between them in order for your numberplate to be legal on UK roads.

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