We supply a full range of show plates and our products are made with the best materials and to the very highest standards. Orders are dispatched the same day and delivered to your door as quickly as possible.


Show plates are number plates used for show purposes (for example motor shows, classic car events, weddings and photoshoots) and do not necessarily comply with the laws and regulations that govern number plates for road use. Why not make your car or motorbike that little bit more special?

When it comes to show plates the only limit is your imagination and we can provide fully customised plates to meet your exact requirements. Our plate builder has a wide range of options but you can also contact us and tell us your exact requirements. We will be happy to discuss your needs and help you to achieve the exact look that you are dreaming of!

Show plates are not to be used on the road and therefore do not have to conform to the strict laws and regulations that govern displaying registration numbers. This does not mean that you compromise on quality when you buy show plates from Auto Plates Direct as we use only the best available products and these meet or exceed British standards for number plates.



Logos, pictures and other designs on number plates

In some jurisdictions, you can include a logo or other design on a number plate but in other countries such as the UK, your ability to do this on road-legal plates is fairly limited.

We can supply show plates with the logo or design of your choice – perhaps your business logo or a sports club. It can even be your own artwork. Please let us know what you would like by contacting us directly. Please remember that you will need the permission of the owner of the logo beforehand if it is not your own.

Why do we have vehicle registration numbers

Every country has rules requiring the display of registration numbers on a vehicle whether it is a car, truck or motorbike. France was the first country to introduce this requirement in 1893 followed by Germany in 1896 and the Netherlands in 1898.

The UK was comparatively late when it enacted the Motor Car Act 1903 which introduced an official vehicle register and the need to display alphanumeric plates from 1904. Registration numbers were introduced so vehicles could be easily traced in the event of an accident or a breach of the law and this remains the case today.

Every country now has a broadly similar system although the precise requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

In the UK the system is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) in Swansea.

Who owns a registration number?

In the UK vehicle registration numbers are a way of identifying vehicles and are owned by the Secretary of State. This is true in most countries. Registration numbers are allocated to vehicles as part of the process of registering and taxing vehicles. They do not belong to the registered keeper of a vehicle. It stays with the vehicle until the vehicle is destroyed or permanently exported out of the country unless the registered keeper applies to the DVLA to put it on another vehicle or a retention certificate.

They are of course frequently bought and sold as people want to make their car stand out or have a number that means something to them. When you buy a personalised or “private” registration number you in fact buy the right to apply it to a particular vehicle. When you sell a vehicle the registration number stays with the vehicle unless you apply to the DVLA (or equivalent outside of the UK) to take it off and put it on another vehicle or a retention certificate.

In some jurisdictions, retention certificates are only valid for a limited time and this can be quite short (e.g. 6 months) so you need to be careful!

Registration number formats

Each country uses its own system and these tend to change over time. The current UK format was introduced on 1 September 2001 and consists of three sections:

  • Two letters showing where the vehicle was first registered (the memory tag)
  • Two numbers show when the vehicle was first registered (the age identifier)
  • A space and then three letters are chosen at random

The DVLA publishes a list of its memory tags and age identifiers.

The UK format has three benefits:

  • A person buying a second-hand car is able to determine the year it was first registered without having to look it up. This has limitations though – a car is allowed to display a number plate that has an age identifier older (but not newer) than the vehicle.
  • In the case of a crime, witnesses are more likely to remember the initial area code letters and this narrows down the investigators work significantly.
  • The scheme should have sufficient numbers to run until 2050!

How do registration numbers need to appear on the plate?

Every country has its own rules that limit the ways in which a number can appear on the plate. This is so that a vehicle is easy to trace. You cannot rearrange or misrepresent the numbers and letters to form names or words as they become hard to read. For example, altering the spacing between numbers or letters, fixing bolts so that they change the look of letters or numbers will attract the attention of the police and may result in a fine. In the UK it will also result in an MOT failure.

These rules do not apply to show plates where they are not used on the road.

Displaying registration numbers properly

Every country has strict requirements governing the way in which registration numbers must appear on number plates in order to be used on their roads. The UK has very detailed requirements covering everything from the materials used to the size, colour and spacing of the number. In summary, number plates must:

  • Be made of a reflective material
  • With a white background at the front of the vehicle and a yellow background at the back
  • Not have a background pattern
  • Use black letters and numbers
  • Use Charles Wright 2001 font
  • Characters must be 79mm tall and 50mm wide (except the letter l or the number 1) with a character stroke of 14mm
  • Characters must be spaced 11mm apart with a space of 33mm between the age identifier and the random letters
  • From 1 September 2021 two-tone / 3D effect fonts are prohibited

Any deviation can result in a prosecution or an MOT fail but Auto Plates Direct can supply show plates that do not follow these requirements as they are not intended for use on the road.

Motorbike plates

The rules for motorcycles and motor tricycles broadly follow those for cars but make allowance for the difference in size between them. We appreciate how important the look of a plate is for motorbikes as the smallest details are so important.

Although motorbikes used to have both front and rear number plates, front plates were done away with due to safety concerns about the damage they could cause to pedestrians in the event of a collision. Therefore motorcycles registered in the UK on or after 1 September 2001 must only display a number plate at the rear of the vehicle. If you ride a motorbike registered before 1 September 2001 you can also display a number plate at the front – but you do not have to.

Motorcycle plates for UK bikes registered after 1 January 1973 must be set on two lines and the following sizing rules apply:

  • Characters must be 64mm tall
  • Characters (except the number 1 or letter l) must be 44mm wide
  • The character stroke (the thickness of the print) must be 10mm
  • The space between the age identifier and the random letters must be 30mm
  • The margins at the top bottom and side must at least 11mm
  • The vertical space between the age identifier and the random numbers must be 13mm

The rest of the rules governing plates for cars apply to motorbikes. So, the font must be Charles Wright and for modern bikes the rear plate must have a reflective yellow background. Traditional black and white plates are permitted in the same way as for cars if your bike is a historic vehicle over 40 years old. See our section on traditional black and white number plates.

How small can we make a motorbike plate is often the first question we are asked. We have a very wide selection of standard sizes for all our plates but particularly for motorbikes. In addition, we can provide bespoke sizes of show plates when you contact us directly.

Traditional black and white number plates

In some jurisdictions (e.g. Guernsey) modern cars may still display traditional black and white plates but in most jurisdictions, these were replaced in order to make the registration number more easily read in poor light.

If you have a vintage or classic car (even a modern classic) you may want the period look of black and white plates. They can be ‘black and white’ but also silver or grey characters on a black plate. See our selection of black metal plates.

In the UK you can still use black and white plates if your vehicle:

  • Was made before 1 January 1973 or
  • It is over 40 years old provided you have applied to the DVLA and it is registered within the “historic vehicles” class.

This 40-year exemption date rolls forward automatically on 1 April each year.

When do I need to replace my number plate?

Modern number plates have to conform to certain quality standards. The UK has a set of British Standards covering visibility, strength and reflectivity. Auto Plates Direct only uses products that meet or exceed these standards and have strict quality control requirements that ensure you are buying the very best. Nevertheless, over time all number plates can become damaged or faded and this can result in a failed MOT or a fine. You should check your number plate regularly to ensure that it is not damaged or illegible. It’s better to be safe than sorry as you can be fined up to £1,000 in the UK if your plate is illegible, cracked or chipped.