Show Plates

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Show Plates – The Ultimate Guide

You may already have heard of show plates. Maybe you are even considering buying a show plate for your car. But vehicle registration processes are also legal processes and ding it wrong could mean that you end up on the wrong side of the law. The first thing we are going to say about show plates is that they are not legally permitted to be on the highway. Keep that in mind although we will keep repeating that point.

But in order to understand what show plates are and how you can use them without violating the law, we must start from the beginning.


What Are Show Plates?

The simplest way to explain show plates is that they are fully customizable, specially designed plates. They are often very easy and cheap to make and can be a great way to add style and character to your car. They are often included in the various style modifications you can make to a car including allows, body kits, tinted glass and interior modifications. Customized show plates come in a huge variety of styles, logos and colors, allowing you to choose a truly unique style that can add personality to your otherwise bland number plate.

We’ve said once and we will say it again here. Keep in mind that show plates are not road legal which means that if you are caught driving with show plates, you could incur point penalties on your license of sometimes even hefty fines. Show plates are for decorative purposes and should therefore only be used at car shows. But you can also purchase legal show plates which adhere to the DVLA rules on spacing and color, while still looking great on your car.


What Are Custom Show Plates Used For?

If you cannot use show plates on the road for everyday driving, then you may be wondering what you can use them for and why get the at all. Well, car enthusiasts will tell you that there are so many applications for show plates. The following are just some of them;


  1. Showing at Major Motor Events

Every year, hundreds of car shows are held in the UK, Europe and around the world. This is where show plates come into their own, which is how they got their name in the first place. Show plates are used by motor show competitors to draw further attention to the car. These custom plates are designed to capture the judge’s eye and may even be the deciding factor in particularly tough competitions.


  1. Making a Sale

Custom show plates can also be instrumental in helping a car dealership make sales. You’ve probably seen the temporary plates that are affixed to cars in showrooms. They can be very useful in giving a buyer much needed information about the car such as the price. But they can also be instrumental in giving the car much needed personality and style, giving the car aesthetic appeal that may help to draw attention to the car an make it easier to make a sale.

  1. Brand Promotion

In much the same ways, custom show plates can be used to promote any brand. Using cars, a company can use custom show plates to advertise and promote their products. If for example a company sells various car waxes, it can use custom plates to draw attention to the product and generate more sales. This form of advertising can work to promote nearly any product, but it works very well when promoting vehicle related products.


  1. As a Decoration

Aside from using them in car shows, using custom plates as a decoration is the most popular purpose for the creation of show plates. If you are car enthusiast, you can have a number of different show plates made in different designs and colors and display them in your house, flat, apartment, place of business or garage. If you are using them for decorative purposes, there are no size, character spacing, and color or design restrictions. You can decide to be as creative as you want to be.


  1. Enhance the Appearance of Other Vehicles

You may not be able to legally use custom show plates on the road, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to enhance the appearance of other vehicles like motorcycles, speedboats, quad bikes and scooters. These vehicles can be easily customized by simply adding a special number plate.


Road Legal Custom Plates

As much as show plates cannot be used on roads, you can still make custom plates that meet all the DVLA requirements. The industry term for these types of show plates is road legal custom plates. There are certain requirements that must be met to create a road legal custom plate. They include the following;


  1. It must be Reflective

One of the DVLA requirements for plates is that they must be reflective. This is to make it easier for the police; traffic cameras and ANPR detect and read the plate. Therefore the first requirement you must meet when creating a road legal custom plate is that they must be made from reflective materials.


  1. Yellow and While Backgrounds

The DVLA also restricts the colors that you can use for your road legal custom plates. The front plates are required to have a while background while the rear plates must have yellow backgrounds. You are also not allowed to use any variations of these colors.


  1. Letters and Numbers

There is a color restriction for the sequence of letters and numbers that you are allowed to use. Black is the only color allowed. Any other color and you risk a violation which could cost you penalty points or even a fine.


  1. Character Dimensions

The requirements surrounding the character dimensions are very specific. They even specify the font that you can use on plates that are designed for use on major roads in the UK. The guideline for the acceptable fonts is lengthy and we encourage you to go through it before creating the road legal custom show plates. But there are several things you should keep in mind. One of the most important is the fact that characters need to be at least 79mm tall with the exception of the letter “I” or the number “1” which can be 50mm wide.


  1. EU/GB Symbol

If you often travel abroad, there is an additional requirement. You may need to get an EU/GB symbol on the left side of the registration plate. This will eliminate the need to get a GB symbol every time you want to travel to the continent. The dimensions for this symbol are also specified at 98mm tall and 40mm to 50mm wide.


Can You Customize the Road legal Plates?

With so many color and size restrictions applied to the road legal custom plated by the DVLA, you may be forgiven for thinking there is no credible way to customize the plate. But there are some customizations that can allow you to easily create a personalized and stylish custom plate without violating the rules DVLA has laid out. They include the following;

  • You can use 3D lettering to distinguish your road legal custom plate from most other plates. There is a 3D font that you can use that will stand out more than the standard flat varieties in place.
  • You can also choose to use a legal carbon fiber style font that is also legally available. It is primarily an excellent way to add class to sports cars and luxury cars.
  • Another legal font you can use that will set you apart from others is the HiLine font. The HiLine font is particularly famous for being quite eye-catching since they are standard characters with a lighter line added. This highlights the middle part of each character making them attractive.

Finally, it is worth noting that the DVLA has millions of unused registrations in its database that have remained unused due to demand in certain combinations of letters and numbers. These have been available for purchase since 1989 and if you are lucky, you may be able to find a combination of letters and numbers that spell just what you want. The cost of these personalized plates will often include an assignment fee which allows you to use them on your car. But the DVLA often holds auctions for these personalized plates, so you have to know when the auction is to be held to take advantage of the offer.


The Difference between Show Plates and Legal Plates

What you get when you apply for a plate for your vehicle is a number plate. This method not only ensures you get your vehicle properly identified, it also gives an impression of what you have in mind by the kind of plate you adorn your vehicle with. Show plates and legal plates are similar, yet they are different in many ways and for so many reasons too. It is not out of place to say that these plates cannot be used without appropriate authorization. You might be a victim of arrest if caution is thrown to the wind in that regard.

It is important to have a clearly defined knowledge of what these two plates are and why they are not the same. Buying a show plate for the wrong reason can get you to the wrong side of the law just as buying a legal plate will grant you freedom to drive on any road without interception of the law enforcement officers. So, avoid using illegal plates on the roads by all means. Where can we start? Let’s start with the Show Plates.


The Show plate – What is it?

When your number plate meets the required standard as provided for in the law, then you have no worries. Driving a car that has a number plate that doesn’t meet the requirement of the law is considered unlawful and you could a face a fine of up to £1000. Who wants to part with such a huge sum for an avoidable offence? So, what exactly are Show plates and why can’t you use them like a legal number plate?

They are technically illegal within the confine of the UK road specifications. They are traditionally found attached to vehicles in showrooms, hence the name “show plate”. They are used to catch the attention of prospective buyers. In other words, these plates are not legally recognized so they can only be used in the show rooms, at exhibitions, rallies and competitions. While they are not legal, you will not face any penalty for using them provided they are not attached to a vehicle that graces the streets.

Because show plates don’t have to meet the regulations of the law as must legal plates, they can be made in a variety of ways without attention to the legal requirements for the legal plate in terms of background and fonts. The law is specific about how the reflective background of a legal plate should be so that speed cameras can have an undistorted view of the plate, while the owner of show plates can use whatever background he chooses without having to face the law.

In the same manner, different fonts and styles of spacing can be applied as is deemed fit for its purpose. All these make show plates appear quite appealing and catchy.



Uses of Show Plates

So, why buy show plates when they are not legal? Individuals buy these plates for competition and sometimes for custom-made vehicles or classic cars. The joy of using fonts and spacing and background that meets your individual tastes is what drives people to it. The creativity with lettering and spacing can also be a joy to feel.

Car showrooms mostly use show plates to demonstrate just how a legal plate could look on a car. Apart from that, individuals can create it for their personal use in their shops (like you’ll find in clothing stores, bars etc.). This can be an effective way to attract customers to patronize them. And since it is not regulated like the legal plates, no reason for fear of arrest.


What Does a Show Plate Cost?

Those who desire a show plate do not need to pay so much to get it, as it is relatively cheap. Since no paper works are needed for people to buy these type of plates, it is surely going to cost less. But, remember that show plates are illegal on UK roads and so, when you’re buying, don’t forget that they’re not meant for the roads. If for any reason, you use them on the road, you risk paying a heavy fine because of a cheap show plate. That won’t be a wise investment.


The Legal Plate

The name could suggest nothing else. A Legal plate, unlike the show plate is backed by the law that is why any deviance from the accepted norm in this regard is a breach of the law and offenders are liable to face punishment, in fines.

Everything about the legal plate is backed and regulated by the law and the rules are quite strict. The reflective background, design, the size and font styles and characters are orderly and carefully regulated by the law. If these specifications are followed to the latter, then your legal plate is qualified to be used on the UK roads.

Unlike the show plate, there are rules for the legal number plates. These rules include the following:

  • characters on the plate must be black in a given font,
  • minimum of 11mm at the top, bottom and side margin of registration number
  • width of the registration number character should be 50mm
  • registration number must have a character stroke of 14mm
  • a character height of 79mm is required for registration number
  • spacing between characters must be 11mm
  • a 33mm space is allowed for the two groupings of numbers
  • The manufacturer name and the British Standard number must be visible in the bottom right hand corner of the number plate.

Other legal requirements of a number plate shows that the plate must not have any other colour that is thicker than 6mm around the number plate.

It is best practice to avoid being on the wrong side of the law especially when you’re driving on UK roads. The rules are clear, therefore, choose wisely when choosing a manufacturer for your number plates.


Why there are Number plates

Legal plates are known to have unending powers across the world. It is not just useful for vehicle identification. It has much more significance than just being placed on the front and back of a vehicle. Each or combination of the characters on the legal number plate means a lot to the authorities. Important for very vehicle to have, failure to have one is a fineable offence. All registration numbers are totally owned and controlled by the Secretary of State. They are issued to vehicle owners as a part of the ways to registering all the vehicles and also for taxing of vehicles.

Every registration number is issued to the vehicle and not to the owner or keeper. This plates are eternally assigned to that vehicle until it is destroyed or shipped out of the United Kingdom for use in other countries. This is a common practice in other countries. You find vehicles with foreign number plates on them on the roads. When you see any vehicle with a strange-looking number plate, you know it was imported. But in the United Kingdom, unregistered vehicles are not permitted to be flaunted on the roads.

As a reminder, show plates are not legal and you should avoid using them on the road. Using them on the road could earn you a fine of £1,000 and cause you to automatically fail your MOT. To avoid these, use legal number plates always.


In Summary

Number plates are important to vehicles because they are identities to the vehicles. Show plates are only allowed in the confine of showrooms, shows, rallies, stores etc. They are not allowed on vehicles on the road in UK because it is not legally acceptable. Driving on the road with these kind of plates will result into a breach of the law and a punishment of £1,000 fine and automatic fail of the MOT applies. Legal plate, on the other hand, is a legally backed number plate (with specifications) that are allowed on vehicles on the UK roads.



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