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Motorbike Number Plates – Everything You Need To Know

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Our guide tells you everything you need to know about your motorcycle and its numberplate. From changing it to a private registration to changing the size or font of the plate itself.

Table of Contents

How Do I Change My Motorcycle Number Plate?

If you have purchased a private number plate for your motorcycle, there are certain rules that you need to abide by in order to legally display it on your bike.

The DVLA runs a scheme that transfers plates from one vehicle to another and allows for private plates to be assigned to a new vehicle or removed and the original plates placed back on display.  As you can imagine, if we all just went around buying number plates and sticking them on our bikes, the DVLA would be in turmoil.  Hence, they offer the scheme and all transfers must be registered with them, for a fee of course.

The three main rules you should know before you contemplate changing number plates are as follows:

 1. Your bike’s age

You cannot make your bike appear to be newer than it actually is. For example, you can’t pop a B-Reg number plate on an A-Reg motorbike. If you are unsure of the exact age of your bike, you will be able to find the date of first registration on your V5 logbook.

 2. Transfer Rules

Only bikes that are currently taxed and have a valid MOT certificate are allowed to use the transfer scheme.  If your Tax or MOT is about to expire, you would be wise to renew these before applying for a transfer to ensure that it is successful.

 3. Q-plates

Q Plates are non-transferable and you cannot transfer other number plates to Q registered vehicles.  Not sure what a Q plate is? Well, if you don’t have one you probably don’t need to know.  But, just in case, a Q plate denotes a rebuilt bike that still has proven aspects of originality.

If you are OK with all of the above, you can go ahead and apply to transfer your new plate on to your bike.

The application process

If you visit the gov.uk website you can apply to transfer a number plate online.  They will want further details about the bike and ask you to complete the form supplied when you purchased your new plate. These could be either:

  • A V778 retention document
  • A V750 certificate of entitlement or
  • An online reference number

To assign a new number plate to a bike that you already own, you can complete the assignment form on the gov.uk website.  You can assign a private plate to any bike provided that the bike is:

  • registered with DVLA in the UK
  • available for inspection
  • able to move under its own power
  • is a type that needs an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test certificate
  • has been taxed (or have had a SORN in place) continuously for the last 5 years.

If the DVLA wants to inspect your vehicle, they will contact you directly to arrange this. You must also put your private number on your vehicle straight away if you apply online.

Removing a private plate from your bike

If you have purchased a bike with a private plate on, but would prefer to revert to the original registration number, you can also arrange for this to happen.

You can easily apply to take a private registration number off of a vehicle to either transfer it to another vehicle or hold on to the private plate until you want to use it again in the future.

The usual rules apply and your bike must be registered with the DVLA, can move under its own power and has either tax or a SORN in place for the last 5 years without any gaps.

The private number will be retained in the name of the registered keeper. The original registration number will usually be reassigned to the vehicle when you remove the private number, but you will probably need to have new plates made.

Small motorcycle number plates

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Sometimes in life, it’s nice to stand out from the crowd.  When it comes to your motorbike number plate, however, everything must be uniform.  Every vehicle has its own unique number plate, also referred to as the registration plate.  This is how we, and others, recognise our motorbikes and how we can identify the age of the bike.

There are strict rules and regulations that cover exactly how your number plate should look and where they should be placed.

Where Should A Motorbike Number Plate Be Displayed?

It is a legal requirement that you always display your number plate on the back of your bike. However, if your bike was registered before 01 September 2001 you can also display a number plate on the front, although there is no legal requirement to do so.

What Should The Number Plate Look Like?

Unlike cars, where the plate runs in one long line, motorbike number plates MUST be displayed across two lines. Motorcycles registered prior to the 1 September 2001, may display a three-line plate, but one-line plates are completely illegal.

Can I Choose My Number Plate Font?

No!  It used to be the case that some cars had italic fonts on their number plates, but these are now illegal.  All number plates must use a standard font to make them easier to read.  From the 1st September 2001, all motorcycle number plates must display the mandatory font as prescribed in law.

Any plate fitted from 1 September 2001 plus replacement plates on bikes registered before must have font that adheres to the following rules:

  • Characters must be 79mm tall and 50mm wide (except 1 and I)
  • The thickness of the font must be 14mm
  • Spaces between characters must be 11mm
  • Spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 33mm
  • Vertical spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 19mm
  • Margin width should be 11mm all around the plate

If your bike was manufactured before 1 September 2001 but after 1 January 1973, the following applies:

  • Characters must be 89mm tall and 64mm wide (except 1 and I)
  • The thickness of the font must be 16mm
  • Spaces between characters must be 13mm
  • Spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 38mm
  • Vertical spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 19mm
  • Margin width should be 13mm all around the plate

For bikes produced before 1 January 1973, the font must look like the following:

  • Characters must be 64mm tall and 44mm wide (except 1 and I)
  • The thickness of the font must be 10mm
  • Spaces between characters must be 10mm
  • Spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 30mm
  • Vertical spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 13mm
  • Margin width should be 11mm all around the plate

If you own a trike built from a motorcycle frame, the rules are:

  • Characters must be 79mm tall and 57mm wide (except 1 and I)
  • The thickness of the font must be 14mm
  • Spaces between characters must be 11mm
  • Spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 33mm
  • Vertical spaces between the age identifier and the random lettering must be 19mm
  • Margin width should be 11mm all around the plate

Can I Alter The Appearance Of My Number Plate In Any Way?

In years gone by, some drivers used to place fixing bolts in a way that changed the appearance of the letters or numbers on the registration plate.  This is now illegal and all number plates must be affixed using the pre-drilled holes.

Your number plate must adhere to the following design to be legally acceptable:

  • It must be made from a reflective material
  • It must display black characters on a white background (if you have a front plate)
  • It must display black characters on a yellow background (for the mandatory rear plate)
  • It may not have a background pattern

What Size Should My Number Plate Be?

Depending on the type of registration plate you have i.e. private plates or new format registration marks, there are different plate sizes available.  They must, however, be a no smaller than 120mm x 180mm and no larger than 228mm x 180mm.

Exceptions To The Rules

If you are lucky enough to own a classic motorbike, you will be able to keep your old style black and white number plate. These may be embossed and in some cases, even curved.

If you own a two or three-wheeled motorcycle or tricycle that has a body type of a four-wheeled vehicle, you MUST display a number plate at the front and back of the vehicle.

Private plates are different again, but they must still adhere to the rules above in most cases.

Bikes manufactured 40+ years ago can display older plates as long as you have applied to the DVLA and registered your bike for the historic vehicle tax. (The 40-year tax exemption date rolls over each year, so keep a date in your diary and save some money!)

It’s nice to be different, but when it comes to our motorbikes, keep your number plate in line with the legal requirements at all times.

Any other rules you have to adhere to

Not only does your font, colouring and plate size have to be correct, but there are also some other rules you have to follow:

  • Number plates have to be lit during low light conditions (at night)
  • Your registration number cannot be obscured (keep it clean and legible)
  • Plates must follow the British Standard for number plates including the trademark for the plate supplier
  • No images except approved GB or EU flags can be present

Are tinted number plates illegal?

This is something of a grey area. The DVLA states that a number plate must not be obstructed so that the registration can be read as required. However, you are likely to attract more unwanted attention than wanted. The police may still pull you over for having a tinted number plate. Some petty officers will threaten you with court and most will scrutinise the bike to find any other issues if they don’t think they can get you on the plate. If you do have a tint make sure it’s light as a dark tint could see you going to court.

Can I put my number plate on retention?

Yes this is a simple process. You just need to fill out a V317 form and pay the fee which will then enable you to remove the private plate from your vehicle and hold onto the rights to the plate. You can then reassign the number plate to a different vehicle in the future.

Questions or Comments?

If you’ve got a question about this article and you need a bit more guidance, drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Likewise, if you’ve got something to add to this article or an experience you’d like to share, let’s hear it!

We love reading your comments and helping our readers.

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