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It’s Official, We’re Losing the Counterpart

January 15, 2015
Posted in DVLA,Editorial — Written by Nationla Numbers

What you’ve heard is true, the DVLA have announced that the paper driving licence counterpart is to be scrapped. This has been on the cards for a while, as you’ve probably read, but they met with some resistance, particularly from the fleet industry. We’ve been told that the date of abolition is, unlike previous announcements, is firm so there is no going back now.

You may be asking what difference the counterpart makes and how this development affects you, and hopefully I can help shed some light on that.

counterpart driving licence

What is the counterpart?

You’ve got one, even though you might not have noticed it previously. The counterpart comes alongside the photocard when you receive your driving licence. Officially it acts as your driving licence in the event that you don’t have a photocard – for example you usually would need to present the counterpart when you are trying to have a lost card replaced.

The counterpart also acts as a physical record of sorts, containing addresses and other information relevant to the driver. It is because of this information that the counterpart is important for things like insurance, vehicle hire, and pretty much anything that would require a driver’s information to be looked up by a third-party.

What’s the problem?

As mentioned the counterpart is used as a reference for businesses to check driver details. The vast majority of opposition the counterpart abolition has had has been from the businesses that reply on the access to information. Car hire companies, fleet companies that need to keep an eye on their drivers, etc, they all need the paper counterpart.

At the moment the DVLA are developing something to replace this need, but as it stands there is no real way to replace the counterpart for the companies that reply on its information. You can see why they are worried about this.

Why are they doing it?

The official line is the cut red tape. DVLA have called the counterpart an “unnecessary burden”, and so it makes send to eliminate it like it has done recently with the tax disc, and soon will be doing with number plate certificates. Reducing on the physical pieces of paper in favour of digital records has become DVLA’s thing.

When will this take effect?

June 8th, 2015. From this point the counterpart will no longer be valid and all future applicants will be issued with a photocard only.

What do I have to do?

It is advised that everyone destroys their counterpart as of the 8th of June. I’m not sure why this is important – perhaps just to avoid confusion of trying to use them in the future? I guess it comes down to the prerogative of the individual, but know that they’ll be no new ones being issued so eventually they be dwindled.

But I don’t have a photocard, what do I do?

If you received your driving licence before 1998 you may only have the counterpart. In which case you get to be exempt from the counterpart cult. You do not have to apply for a photocard and most importantly YOU DO NOT DESTROY THE PAPER COUNTERPART. Of course, when you next renew you receive a photocard instead of another counterpart.

How can I check my driving licence information?

This much has been covered by the DVLA. A free “View Driving Licence” service has already been introduced last year and allows all GB licence holders to check the information that would usually be covered on the counterpart. Things like addresses, driving qualifications, penalty points, etc can all be checked on the internet. On top of this the service is free and is available 24/7.

What if a third-party needs to see the counterpart?

At the moment the plan is to introduce a new service called “Share Driving Licence” that allows drivers to send their information to a third-party. This would, in theory, fully replace the function of the counterpart and would allow employers, hire companies and others to check your information. DVLA assures us that this will be entirely safe and only those you have given permission to access the information may see it.

Unfortunately this is only a work in-progress and has yet to be put online. As per usual DVLA plans to release a public Beta version down the line with the expectation of it being ironed out and put online before the counterpart is benched for good. That is the hope anyway.


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DVLA Christmas Opening Times & Contact Numbers

December 12, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

What are the DVLA Christmas Opening Times?

Trying to sort out your vehicle over the holidays? I know how much of a headache it can be. If you already have too much to do and something like this needs to be done last minute you can often find yourself with no one to speak to. To make things easier we at Nationla Numbers have compiled all of the DVLA Christmas opening times and the right contact numbers, hopefully making things easier and painless.

Usual Opening Times: 8AM – 7PM

Wed 24th Dec (Christmas Eve): 8AM – 12PM (An additional premium line will be open until 3PM)

Thurs 25th Dec (Christmas Day): Closed

Fri 26th Dec (Boxing Day): Closed

Sat 27th Dec: 9AM – 2PM (Premium line only)

Sun 28th Dec: Closed

Mon 29th Dec: 8AM – 6PM

Tues 30th Dec: 8AM – 6PM

Wed 31st Dec (New Years Eve): 8AM – 6PM

Thurs 1st Jan (New Years Day): Closed

DVLA’s usual opening times return to normal from Fri 2nd Jan.


What are the DVLA Contact Numbers?

Driver Licensing: 0300 790 6801

Vehicle Registration & Tax: 0300 790 6802

Health & Medical: 0300 790 6806

Other Queries: 0300 790 6819

Premium Line: 09061 393 837

Alternatively you can use DVLA’s online service to access information 24 hours a day, including vehicle tax, vehicle registration and SORN.


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10 Interesting Plates in the DVLA’s November Auction

November 20, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

If you are new to the number plate game you might not be aware of the DVLA’s personalised number plate auctions. These are the auctions where the DVLA sell off a selection of the vast number of registrations never been issued to the public. In other words, if you buy a number plate from an auction you will be the first owner, which is why good deals are to be had.

As a number plate dealer I buy a lot of my stock this way, and for a member of the public it is perfect for getting a great plate at a decent price. The November auction will be hosted at The Vale Resort in Cardiff and will run from the 26th to the 28th. Below I have listed 10 marks that have caught my eye and the Estimate Price* I reckon we’ll see on the day. You can grab the full list of plates available here.

(* = Hammer price before fees.)

Porsche 991 Turbo 911 Number Plate

#1: POR 991T (Lot No: 1133)

Meaning: Porsche 991 Turbo

Reserve: lb400

Estimate Price: lb1,500

There is a few Porsche plates in this auction, one very good that I will mention later, but I expect this one to be quite a steal at lb1,500, especially if you have the matching car. I think the price will stay down because the model is still very new so it is not very widely driven yet, but it might only take two or three owners showing up to make things pick up. In case that happens though there are a few more in the same auction: 111 POR, POR 217T, POR 711A and POR 993X.

Fulton Fullton number plate

#2: FU11 TON (Lot No: 479)

Meaning: Fullton, Fulton

Reserve: lb900

Estimate Price: lb2,600

I’ve estimated this to go quite low because it is not a hugely popular surname, but it is about as close as you could possibly get to “Fulton”/“Fullton” so I imagine a bunch of people will be trying their hand. It only takes two or three bidders with deep pockets to create a bidding war that could see this go for a lot more, but if so it is not the end of the world as F111 TON will also be available a few lots later.

Belamy Bellamy number plate

#3: BE11 AMY (Lot No: 127)

Meaning: Bellamy

Reserve: lb1,000

Estimate Price: lb5,000

It is hard to predict what these sorts of plate go for because there are very few plates to compare it to. For the name, “Bellamy”, it is perfect so it really depends on who is there on the day. lb5,000 is quite a conservative prediction, but as I mentioned earlier it just takes two or three affluent bidders to make it fly way above that. I can pretty much guarantee that the plate will be back on the market a couple of years from now at a five-figure price.

25000 25 OOO number plate

#4: 25 OOO (Lot No: 1063)

Meaning: 25000

Reserve: lb3,000

Estimate Price: lb5,500

I always like looking out for these are they always go quite decently. There is even a rumour going around that the same party is buying them all at each auction. Looking at the history we’ve had 20 OOO go at lb5.5k, 21 OOO at lb5k and 22 OOO at lb5.5k, so this should be a pretty safe bet at our estimated price. However, sometimes you never can predict as 23 OOO went at lb9k. Maybe this registration will have similar fortunes?

WELSH WALES number plate

#5: WEL 55H (Lot No: 1498)

Meaning: Welsh

Reserve: lb1,000

Estimate Price: lb6,000

It is not the only “Welsh”/“Wales” plate coming available, there is also W44 LES, WEL 6H and WA11 LES coming up in the same auction, but this one in particular grabbed my attention because the WEL 5H sold at over lb27,000 when it went to auction several years ago. This is definitely one to watch, as the result could be surprising. I doubt it will get anywhere near to price of its shorter counterpart though.

Callum number plate

#6: CA11 LUM (Lot No: 205)

Meaning: Callum, Calum

Reserve: lb900

Estimate Price: lb8,000

I could be underestimating this number plate because it isn’t the perfect spelling of “Callum” (three L’s), but it is a pretty tidy number plate. A quick look on the market shows that other plates referring to this name are going for as high as lb40,000 so there is definite investment opportunity. Plus, if you want a “Callum” plate and do not want to pay that sort of price this might just be your last chance to get one cheaper. However, I do know C411 UM* plates are still available.


Rhianna number plate

#7: RH14 NNA (Lot No: 1199)

Meaning: Rhianna

Reserve: lb1,000

Estimate Price: lb12,000

I cannot wait for this one. It is very hard to pick a price on this because there has never been anything like that name that has gone through auction before. R14 NNA is on the private market at over lb10,000, but this is perfect for the name. Everyone is thinking the obvious, that the popstar will want it, but she does not live in the country, so who realistically will be bidding on it? People called “Rhianna”, those who have named their daughter “Rhianna”, maybe even people who hope to sell it to the popstar one day. My prediction? Lots of bidders, but most of them will not bid high. Will it break lb10k? I think so, but I can definitely see most bidders dropping out before it gets anywhere near that.

Porsche 911 GTS number plate

#8: 911 GTS (Lot No: 544)

Meaning: Porsche 911 GTS

Reserve: lb1,900

Estimate Price: lb12,000

I reckon this will break into five figures no problem, eclipsing my estimated price. The Porsche 911 is a very popular car so there are bound to be a lot of interest from owners and dealers alike. To give you an idea a new model will cost you upwards of lb90,000, so I guarantee they’ll be a lot of people with the money to spend. You can also bet that it will increase the value of a car that is being resold too, perfect investment.

McLaren number plate

#9: MC14 REN (Lot No: 902)

Meaning: McLaren

Reserve: lb5,000

Estimate Price: lb15,000

This could be go for anything. Definitely one that will break five figures because of a double meaning – it is a surname and could also refer to the F1 team. I wouldn’t be surprised if a representative of McLaren is actually there to bid for it. That said, it might be one that has a very high resale value but goes for cheaper than expected, it is an obvious target for people trying to get an investment number plate.

Robson number plate

#1o: RO13 SON (Lot No: 1218)

Meaning: Robson

Reserve: lb1,000

Estimate Price: lb20,000

This is the big one. The name is very common and this registration is absolutely perfect for it. We know it is going to be popular as well because we had well over a hundred people contact us about it when the 13-issue registrations were about to be released, many of them telling us they would pay upwards of lb10,000 to get hold of it. Since then though more people will have 13-reg vehicles and more people will have realised that it was coming up for auction. Like with RH14 NNA I expect there will be a room full of bidders, but I reckon they’ll be a handful of people willing to bid high. I would not be surprised if it surpassed our estimated price by some distance, in fact.

What are your predictions for the upcoming auction? Are there any plates you are looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!


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DVLA’s Number Plate Survey

November 16, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

The objective of the number plate review survey carriedout in June, 2014 was to gain feedback from the public and number plate suppliers on the current regulations.

The Customer Experience and Research Unit have helpfully published an executive summary. Some of the findings include the following:-

  • 98% of respondents were members of the public (2,797)
  • 61% of the above had purchased number plates within the last 10 years.

The good news for us as a personalised number plate dealer is that 48% (more than 800) of the above group purchased new plates as a result of acquiring a personal registration.

At this point, it is relevant to briefly outline the regulations put in place as park of DVLA’s drive to decrease car crime. All suppliers must register with DVLA as a RNPS (Registered Number Plate Supplier). For example, Nationla Numbers Ltd was an early applicant registered as number 133. Our sister company, Jepson and Co, as a major manufacturer of acrylic plates for more than 100 years is, obviously, also registered.

To provide number plates legally, a supplier must have sight of the original V5/C’s (registration certificate or logbook) plus personal ID such as a driving licence or utility bill.

The survey states that the preferred method of buying number plates was in person.

Interestingly, 55% of respondents said they needed to provide a V5/C as proof of entitlement with 46% being required to prove name and address as well.

Another part of the report stated that while the majority (67%) preferred to purchase “over the counter”, 27% purchased from an online trader.

Remembering the regulations out-lined above, it is somewhat bizarre that the report authors go on to state: “Surprisingly, 27% of respondents advised that they didn’t have to show any form of identification.”

We, as a RNPS, have alerted DVLA on numerous occasions as to the presence and identity of these online suppliers who operate totally outside the regulations, often requiring an “office” outside the UK. Not only do the internet suppliers make a mockery of the security procedures designed to reduce car crime but they also represent unfair competition to registered suppliers who are subject to inspection, etc.

To our knowledge, little or nothing has been done by DVLA to remove these illegal traders from the internet. Neither have they accepted suggestions from RNPS representatives so that we can operate legally on the internet, namely to accept scanned copies of documentation.

We feel these actions by DVLA would increase security of the system.

What do you think?

It’s that significant number “27” again. Some people attach significance to the face that Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison all died at 27 years of age.

We don’t expect DVLA to include the above in their survey but surely they should be able to connect the 27% buying on the net with the 27% not being asked for ID and do something!


How the Tax Disc Changes with Affect You?

October 10, 2014
Posted in DVLA,Editorial,Other News — Written by Nationla Numbers

If you have taxed since October 1st you will have noticed something different in how the DVLA issue tax discs to you. In fact it is very different, because they don’t issue a tax disc at all any more. You still have to tax your vehicle but you do not get anything to display.

The recent launch of this new system has been nothing less than chaotic with the website crashing on the very first day due to what has been called “unprecedented demand”. Servers are back up and running though and approximately 270,000 people have been through to process. However there are still millions of people unclear on how these changes affect the grand scheme of things. The article should hopefully cover the issues.

UK Tax Disc

How does this affect number plate transfers?

In order to transfer a number plate any vehicle involved needs to be taxed and as proof of this a copy of the tax disc must be sent to us at Nationla Numbers so we can forward it to the DVLA. In the event that a copy of the tax disc could not be sent to us we could get by with the expiry date and the serial number. We still advise you still send us this when possible.

If you no longer have a tax disc we technically will not need to take anything, as the DVLA should acknowledge the vehicle as taxed when the transfer is submitted. However because of this we cannot conduct any checks ourselves. E.g. in the past if we receive a tax disc that looks like it will expire before transfer is complete we would advise customers to send us the tax application as well to avoid delays.

Customers must be mindful of when their tax expires and how long the transfer can take as if it is submitted and the tax runs out the DVLA will simply kick it out and we’ll have to start from scratch. For that reason we will still likely ask for tax information such as the expiry date.

How does this affect the DVLA?

The DVLA claim that the new paperless tax disc system will save them lb10million annually thanks to the obvious need for less printing and posting. Administration processes are set to receive a cut because of the increasing amount of paperless services – including the ability to tax online.

DVLA are striving to do away with as many pieces of paper as possible. They’ve already announced plans to do-away with old style paper driving licences at the end of the year, sending out photocards to anyone who renews afterwards, and they will only continue to streamline more and more of their processes in the future.

How does this affect the public?

In theory the public should receive a simple and easy service without much hassle at all. As of November 1st the DVLA will start allowing direct debit payments on tax renewals, which is immensely convenient, as well as the ability to pay for tax monthly (previously drivers only had the option to pay for 6 or 12 months). The DVLA have made these changes with the public very much in mind.

One source though explains that disc-less tax could end up costing taxpayers an extra lb38million every year due primarily to the sale of used vehicles. Previously when a vehicle was sold the owner could pass unused tax to the new owner, but this has been changed. Now all new owners would be expected to tax the vehicle from the 1st of every month and the seller will only be refunded on whole months of unused tax.

e.g. A sale on a vehicle taxed until the end of November goes through on October 25th. The seller of that vehicle will receive a refund for November while buyer pays two months tax for the rest of October and November. In that case the DVLA have gained an extra month of tax than they would under the old system. At an average of lb14 for monthly tax and 2.73million cars sold annually you can see how DVLA will be making a pretty penny.

Will this lead to more untaxed vehicles?

There is a fear that the removal of the tax disc could lead to more drivers deliberately or mistakenly driving around without any tax or insurance. In a survey conducted by the RAC 63% or drivers were worried about this, while 44% believed it would encourage drivers to break the law. While admittedly it would be impossible for members of the public to spot and report untaxed vehicles it should actually be easier for authorities to catch tax dodgers thanks to speed cameras.

Speed cameras use number plate recognition to identify vehicles and bring up a digital record of the tax. Unpaid duty is immediately flagged up and a fine is automatically issued to the driver’s address. Unless a driver somehow manages to avoid all speed cameras it’d be almost impossible for them to last long without tax and insurance.

Of course, some technophobes argue that digital records are unreliable and could lead to some drivers being wrongfully fined, but this remains to be seen. The DVLA will still be issuing tax reminders to motorists coming up to their renewal date and warnings to drivers that have let their tax expire, so there should not be an issue will drivers simply forgetting they need to tax their vehicle.

What should I do with my old tax disc?

Well, we have a few ideas …


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How the DVA Changes Will Affect Our Northern Ireland Customers

July 10, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

From the 21st of July all matters regarding the sale, transfer and retention of personalised number plates will pass from the DVA in Coleraine, Northern Ireland to DVLA in Swansea. This is part of the continued centralisation effort by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

It may not mean a lot to many of you, but to us at Nationla Numbers and all our buyers and sellers from Northern Ireland this has been a long time coming. It is something we have wanted for a while because of the headaches that always came along with the typical “Irish transfer” as we used to call them.

What this means is that, finally, number plate transfers to and from Northern Ireland will work exactly the same way as it does for the rest of the country. No additional costs, no extra waiting times, no jumping through hoops.

While previously a number plate bought on a V750 Certificate of Entitlement would need to be transferred onto a vehicle and then onto a NI vehicle we will now be able to register it directly to the vehicle. The difference is 6 weeks transfer time down to about 2 weeks, so you can see why this is exciting news.

Northern Ireland will even receive the ability to retain private number plates. This is the process of taking the number plate off a vehicle and holding it on a V778 Retention Certificate if you did not have another vehicle yet. The rest of the UK have had this for years but for those in Northern Ireland if a vehicle was being sold they would have to transfer the number plate to another vehicle or risk losing the plate.

Our customers in Northern Ireland will soon have the luxury of cheaper prices, quick transfer times and all the extra services that comes with being with the DVLA. All paperwork is set to be standardised so soon Northern Ireland won’t even have to use their own documents version of existing DVLA documents, they can use the real things.

For us a Nationla Numbers we will being able to rid ourselves of third and fourth parties needed to transfer a number plate to and from Northern Ireland, but above all else we will have much happier customers and I hope a lot of customers who thought the process was too complicated before will now reconsider.


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Preview of the 15 Release: How to order and what you get.

July 3, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

Nationla Numbers are happy to announce the upcoming release of the “15 Series” of DVLA registrations.

These number plates will released for sale in December ready for vehicles first registered in March 2015.

Just like previous releases the addition of a new number provides many exciting opportunities for future personalised number plates include names, words and more.

If you are interested in a 15 registration you can already place an order with Nationla Numbers. All you have to do is call us, but more on that later!

Number Plate Format

Personalised number plates uses numbers in place of letters in order to spell out names and words. The “15” provides a great opportunity to make number plates appear with meanings that may not have previous been possible.

In this case, “15” will usually be used to represent “IS”.

The rest of the number plate would be in keeping with the DVLA’s “Current Style” format. This format would be two letters (usually indicating location) and two numbers to identify year of registration (in this case 15), a space and three more letters then follow this. See below for an example.

Number Plate Format

As always the letters “I” and “Q” cannot be used anywhere in the registration, and “Z” may only be used in the last three characters.

What Is Possible?

Nationla Numbers have done the math and have found that there are well over 10,000 names made possible by the new 15-Series. Many of these are as perfect as you will find on any number plate, and some are not even possible in any other format.

The attractive name plates include:









? = Another letter, i.e. an initial.

The 15 release is not just for names though. The ability to create words allows you to personalise your number plates however you want. As long as it means something to you it can be the ideal number plate.

Perhaps if you are from the South West of England you might be interested in BR15 TOL (BRISTOL)? Or maybe you are a bit loud and want NO15 EYS (NOISEY) to extenuate this personality. There really are a lot of options.

One thing businesses can do is try to find a number plate to advertise their business. A number plate like SC15 SOR (SCISSOR) would be perfect for a barber or hairdresser. WH15 KEY (WHISKEY) could be fantastic for a pub, alcohol merchant or a distillery. Private number plates are eye-catching and prove to be a great marketing tool, so take a look and see if one would suit your business.

15 can be used as letters “IS” or even “LS” to make your desired word or name, so get creative and see if you can fit yours in, or otherwise give us a call and see if you can help you out.


The 15-Series is released in December for vehicles registered in March 2015 to September 2015. It therefore can only be used on a vehicle registered on this date or after. The vehicle cannot be older than this.

Of course you could always put the registration on a retention which can be kept for up to 12 months without putting it onto a vehicle. If you do not have a vehicle with in that 12 months you can even extend it indefinitely at the cost of lb73 per year.

Number plates are formatted by the DVLA and cannot be altered in size or spacing. Doing so can result in a fine and an instant MOT failure.

How To Order

Nationla Numbers can take pre-orders on the upcoming 15-Series with only a lb100 deposit. This deposit secures the number plate with us, meaning we will not offer it with anyone else and act solely on your behalf.

As of writing there is no full pricing available on these registrations. Early indications are that we should have prices around late September. If you have placed a pre-order on a 15-Series plate you will be given first refusal of the fully priced number plate. If you no longer wish to continue you can cancel and refund and we will no longer act on your behalf.

Release Day in December is very intense as all number plates are released at the same time – 8:30AM. Everyone wanting a number plate will attempt to buy at this time and every year this crashes the website. This means it will be slow and will be constantly failing, in other words it will be nearly impossible to buy anything straight away.

That is of course unless you are Nationla Numbers! We have been doing this for every release in the last 30 years so believe me we know what we are doing. We have been hugely successful in the last few years in particular as we’ve improved our system and refined our method.

Our success rate speaks for itself and 92% of our customers walk away with the number plate they wanted. So what are you waiting for, give us a call on 01642 363738 and speak to us about the 15-Series.


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Number Plates – Legal Fonts and Formats

March 17, 2014
Posted in Cars,DVLA — Written by Nationla Numbers

DVLA issue private registrations which can resemble names or words BUT it is an offence to rearrange the characters or alter the spacing. This is because number plates are functional, the exist primarily to identify the vehicle for enforcement purposes. Hence the existence of standard fonts and formats.

Standard rear number plates

Current Legal Format for Number Plates

A new format had to be introduced on September 1st, 2001 as the previous prefix letter arrangement had come to the end of the alphabet. The current number plate format consists of two letters, two numbers and finally followed by three random letters.

Consultation with interested parties, particularly the police was carried out at length. According to research, the first few characters are more likely to be remembered by a witness. Therefore, the first two letters indicate an area e.g. NT denotes a vehicle registered in Middlesbrough, North East of England.

The two numbers are an age-identifier e.g. 13 indicates of vehicles registered in March 2013, 63 indicates the September 2013 registration and 14 represents vehicles registered in March 2014.

layout on a standard number plate

Legal Number Plates on Cars and Vans

The plate displayed at the front of the vehicle is white with black letters while rear number plates have black letters on a yellow reflective background. The size and shape of these acrylic plates vary depending on the model (for example, some Jaguars have curved plates rather than the standard shape), but the measurements for the characters are very specific and are as follows:

  • 79mm character height
  • 50mm character width
  • 11mm space between characters
  • 33mm between groups of characters

The font that is used on all legal plates is named “Charles Wright”.

Legal Number Plates on Motorcycles

From September 2001, new motorcycles were required this to display the rear plate already (previously, motorbikes occasionally showed a curve plate along the front mudguard). This one rear plate on a motorbike is always square. As you would expect, the dimensions are slightly smaller:

  • 64mm character height
  • 44mm character width
  • 10mm space between characters
  • 30mm between groups of characters.

Classic Pressed Plates

If you are lucky enough to own a pre-1973 classic or vintage vehicle you are entitled to an older style of plate. These are not made of acrylic like the standard type, there are actually metal, and are black and silver in colour. A company in Sheffield (Jepson and Co Ltd) specialises in making these traditional plates using original dyes and presses dating back a hundred years.

pressed number plates

Flags, Fancy Fonts, Stickers and Borders

While you are unable to alter the legally mandated format and spacing of standard registration plates there are various other designs that you can take advantage of. Bare in mind though that this does change over time, and it was only recently that the honeycomb background was made illegal.

What is legal currently though is what is called “3D Lettering” (also known “two tone”). These are the same in size and shape to the standard font, but rather than plain black the letters are shaded with a second grey colour. This makes the characters appear as if they have been raised.

You can also put a flag on the side of the plates. The Union Jack, St. George Cross, Welsh Dragon and the St. Andrew Cross (Scottish Saltire) are still legal as arer various identifiers such as GB, UK, SCO, CYM. Neither flags nor identifiers can be more than 50mm wide and must be displayed on the left hand side of the number plates. A standard GB sticker is required book can be substituted for a EU symbol plus a GB identifier.

3d font and flag

Number plates with legal fonts and formats are a requirement for MOT test. Displaying illegal plates can land you in trouble with the police.

In extreme circumstances, the Secretary of State for Transport can withdraw the registration mark from you – though I can’t say I have ever known this happen unless the number plate has been offensive in some way.



How do car number plate readers work?

February 19, 2014
Posted in DVLA,Media,Other News — Written by Sam Ryder

There has been a spark of interest over these nifty little machines recently. As the use of number plate readers increase over the next few years there are going to be more questions from the public about that they do and what they are for, not to mention more scaremongering from those who might have to believe this is one more steps towards a 1984 dystopia.

Did you know that number plate readers were actually invented in 1976, but have come a long way since then. When previously technology was limited and things like light, vehicle speed, how the plates were spaced and even what angle they where captured could skew the reading, now some clever clogs has perfected the system that eliminates most common inaccuracies.

Since then number plate readers, or Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to give them their proper name, have been impeccable public servants.

How number plate readers work …

Number plate recognition involves capturing a video or an image of a vehicle’s license plates and running them through a system of algorithms that converts the image to a text entry into a computer. The computers can then look up and all information in the vehicle’s history.

This is difficult to programme if you think about it. If you look at CAPTCHA images for example you can see why. Computers can only read data – as in text entry – and when confronted with an image it can only make out a bunch of pixels. Unlike the human eye it cannot pick out patterns and can therefore no read like we can. This is why this is so difficult and it takes a number of defining rules to make it possible.

1. Localisation

This algorithm determines which part of the vehicle the number plate reader looks at. Much like facial recognition of your camera phone, the localisation rule identifies key features of the vehicle and rules them out. For example, the bumper, the headlights, the mirrors, etc. Once these features have been identified and then ignored the camera is left with only the number plate to look at.

2. Sizing and Orientation

This part of the number plate reader’s algorithm accounts for distance and angular skews that may distort the image. This is the sort of thing you might see used alongside CCTV footage. It takes an image that is off angle and adjusts it into regular size and appearance. Obviously this correction makes the characters easier to read.

3. Normalisation

Like sizing and orientation this algorithm you might have previously seen alongside CCTV footage, however this corrects for blur, colour, brightness and contrast. Once again this makes the registration easier for the number plate reader to make sense of.

4. Segmentation

Faced with what we might think of a standard, front-and-centre picture of a number plate the ANPRs can really start getting to work. This part also makes it clear exactly why we have strict rules when it comes to how number plates can be displayed.

How segmentation works is be defining the boundaries in which the computer expects a character to appear in. It figuratively draws a box around each letter and uses those boxes to work out each letter individually. This is why the DVLA come down hard on anyone who changes the spacing or font on a number plate, since this stops the number plate reader doing its job!

5. OCR or Optical Character Recognition

This is the part where humans have to help a bit. Once the machine has isolated a character it is essentially left with a box of pixels that don’t make a lot of sense. Humans have to tell the number plate readers how to turn the pixels into letters by pre-programming the patterns to be expected. This is why font and size are important.

Upon recognition of these letters the computer can match the pattern to a specific letter, thus triggering an actual text entry. This obviously makes the searching and the reporting effortless on the technological side of things.

6. Analysis

This final step is so fast it is barely even a step. Using the number plate in text form it can check certain characters against their position on the number plate to check for age, area of registration and much more. It can use this to not only look up vehicle history but also add to that history. It literally takes milliseconds to do, but as you can see this function is the whole point of number plate readers in the first place.

We are now at a time when ANPRs are incredibly useful to society and really are not anything new to be scared of. In fact, they have been in wider-scale use since the 1990s and these modern versions have been very successful helping the DVLA and the police.

So why the bother? Probably because UK the most watched population in the world. In this country we have nearly 5 million CCTV cameras, which makes us the most watched population in the world. They say most Britons can’t go a regular working day within being filmed by 300 CCTV cameras. Feeling frightened? Feeling safe? No matter what side of the argument you fall on, CCTV and number plate readers are here to stay.


By . Sam is Nationla Numbers’s resident busy-body and writer. She is new to the game but she is learning fast. Keep a look out for her other content, as well as her writing which you can find across the internet.

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Introduction to Number Plate Formats

February 12, 2014
Posted in DVLA — Written by Sam Ryder

In my short time in the number plate industry I am constantly being asked what “styles” are available. Take this email I received from a customer recently:

Customer enquiry on number plate design

Obviously everyone wants to stand out and inject a little bit of personality into his or her car, but sometimes this hits a roadblock when only certain things are legal. Hopefully this fills the blanks and gives you an idea of what is allowed and why.

What is an “acrylic number plate”?

Putting it simply, an acrylic number plate is the physical slab of plastic that you attach to your car. But that is putting it very simply though. More accurately you would say it is an approved method of displaying the registration number that the DVLA have given to your vehicle.

Where can I pick up my number plate?

Like many things in this modern world, the purchase of a new set of plates is not as simple as it used to be. To try to limit vehicle crime, all suppliers and manufacturers are required to be on the DVLA RNPS (registered number plate supplier) list. In other words, you can’t pick up an acrylic plate from any Dom, Richard or Harry.

To find details of you’re nearest supplier, follow this link and see for yourself.

This isn’t only bit of red tape governing the design, manufacture and display of number plates either. Specific requirements are set out in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations.

Obviously some of these regulations restrict how and where the public buys. There is a whole host of documents, for example, that someone will need to bring with them in order to walk out with a number plate. Not only do you need these to prove entitlement, you also need them to identify yourself.

What do I need?

One or more of the following…
1. A driving licence
2. A utility bill,
3. A bank or building society statement
4. A passport
5. A debit or credit card
6. A police warrant card
7. An armed forces identity card
8. An ID card from your country of origin if you are not a UK national.

Who says it is a free country?

Don’t panic though; I’m trying to not be scary. You do only need one of the above as long as it confirms your name and address.

You cannot ask for just any registration number of course.

To confirm you have the right to the mark, you will need to produce one of the following (again, originals, not copies)

1. A vehicle registration certificate (V5C or V5CN I)
2. An entitlement certificate (V50 or V750 NI)
3. A retention document (V778)
4. An authorisation certificate bearing the DVLA, DVA or VOSA stamp (V948).

Not as simple as it seems on the surface, is it?

What is a V948?

This form is included with the return of documents from DVLA, Swansea following a cherished transfer. In other words, you have purchased a private or personalised registration, DVLA have completed the transfer and you, therefore, require a new set of plates.

In many cases, you will have purchased your new registration plate through a reputable cherished number plate dealer (hopefully a member of the Cherished Number Dealer Association/CNDA).

As well as organising the transfer via DVLA, such dealers also offer various types of acrylics to order online. These dealers are also registered RNPS and, because they handle the original documents, can legally send you a set of number plates in the post.

Since the manufacturing processes is a skilled one requiring considerable quality control, most dealers contract out the orders. Manufacturers themselves have to be on the RNPS list too and often they package and supply the raw materials (acrylic, numbers and letters etc.) to various outlets along with the necessary associated equipment.

One manufacturer in Sheffield, Jepsons & Co, has actually been in business for 128 years and is probably the oldest maker and supplier of number plates in the world. They still even make the beautiful pressed metal black and silver plates – but these can only go on vehicles registered before 1973.

Can I do anything to make this easier?

To be honest, yes, by virtue of the Internet there are companies who will send out a number plate without the required evidence. Obviously though, just because you can legally buy them does not mean you can legally use them. Dig deep and you’ll find these are what are called “show plates” AKA “This is only for show!”

When ordering one of these the onus is on you to make sure the number plate is legal. If it isn’t then you face the full wrath of the law – which I will cover later.

The DVLA’s attention has been drawn to these companies many times since it would appear highly unlikely that the original documents are being supplied through the post. Even though this practice blows an enormous hole in the government’s declared aim to combat car crime, no serious action has been taken.

Obviously, we are all keen to buy items on the Internet with all its convenience and speed but, until and unless the DfT devises acceptable regulations for buying number plates on the net, such companies need to be brought into line.

What happens if you get caught with an illegal set of plates?

The DVLA are very clear about this, so I’ll quote them directly:

“You could be fined up to lb1,000 and your car will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.”

Keeping in mind that “incorrectly” can mean anything from changing certain letters to messing with the spacing, it is not something that should be risked. It depends really though on how unlucky you are, as it really depends on the discretion of the police officer who notices.

So what is allowed on a number plate?

First of all give this downloadable leaflet from the DVLA a read, as that will give you a run down of the size and heights you are allowed.

On top of this you can legally add certain flags, identifiers, borders and also the two-tone 3D effect lettering. Have a play around with the Nationla Numbers Number Plate Maker and see what looks good to you.

In closing …

During Roads Minister Robert Goodwill’s statement on the 9th of December 2013 about removing the need for an insurance policy to be shown when applying for tax, he stated “Getting rid of needless bits of paper, making changes to free up motorists time … is all part of our commitment to get rid of unnecessary red tape”

Wonder if Mr Goodwill has purchased a new set of number plates lately?

The process still seems tied up with considerable red tape. Perhaps it is time for goodwill gesture!


By . Sam is Nationla Numbers’s resident busy-body and writer. She is new to the game but she is learning fast. Keep a look out for her other content, as well as her writing which you can find across the internet.