Recently bought a new set of vehicle number plates? According to an investigation carried out by the BBC, DVLA-registered companies are selling car number plates without carrying out the necessary checks.

As a result, there have been cases whereby registered owners have faced fines or even arrest when their cloned plates have been involved in a crime.

To make sure you’re on the right side of the law, we’ve put together a handy guide on number plates.

Illegal number plates explained

Number plate suppliers that do not complete the necessary checks are potentially making cloned number plates, which could result in fines or arrest for the registered keeper if the car was involved in a crime.

For example, if a driver with a cloned plate speeds and picks up a parking ticket, the registered (and rightful) driver of the licensed number plate will be the one to receive the posted fine.

According to the BBC, one driver from Surrey has received 18 letters demanding a total of £1,000 in parking fines after another driver with the same vehicle number plate had committed multiple offences.

So what’s the solution?

Our number plate expert here at Halfords, Katie Sexton, says: “The only safe and legal way to purchase your number plates is to make sure you’re asked to show your documents at the point of purchase. You should be asked to provide original documents that prove your name and address, and show that you’re allowed to use the registration number.”

She added: “Cloned number plates are being increasingly used by rogue drivers and criminals. To avoid becoming a victim, we recommend that you don’t ever upload photos of your car to any website or social media platforms with the plates showing.”

When you’re getting number plates made up, you should provide original documents that:

  • Prove your name and address like a driving license, utility bill, bank statement or national identity card.
  • Show that you’re allowed to use the registration number like a vehicle registration certificate (V5C or V5CNI), new keeper supplement (V5C/2 or V5C/2NI), certificate of entitlement or retention document (V778).

For a more detailed list of acceptable documents, take a look at

Other things to consider about number plates

  • A legally registered number plate must always include the British Standard on the bottom right-hand corner of your number plate (BSAU145d).
  • If you think that your car number plate has been cloned, you should contact the police and the DVLA at once.

Are gel number plates legal?

Gel number plates are increasingly popular among drivers who are looking for ways to get noticed on the road. On a gel number plate, the letters and numbers are covered with a polyurethane gel resin that gives them a raised profile. Messing with your number plate is usually a no-no, but gel number plates are legal if they meet the UK government requirements. 

How do number plates work?

The UK’s number plate system is a straightforward way of registering all vehicles on the road. Every vehicle has a unique registration number which the DVLA uses to monitor it. They share databases with the police and insurers so that the DVLA (and relevant authorities) know whether your car has a current MOT and is insured. Your number plate can also identify the car (although not the driver) if you are captured by any fixed-mounted cameras (speed cameras) or police cameras.

Number plate codes and location

The UK’s number plate system is a logical system that can help you learn a lot about where your car was registered. 

The first section of a number plate is the local memory tag, with the first two letters identifying where the vehicle was registered. They are pretty logical, with MA standing for Manchester, for example. You can find a full list of location tags here.

The two numbers are age identifiers, telling you what year the car was registered, with two new registrations per year (June 2019 would be ‘19’, and October 2019 be ‘69’, for example). The final three letters are randomly selected.

Buying replacement number plates

Here at Halfords, when you buy number plates from us, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that the appropriate checks have taken place and that we’ve followed the approved and legal process.

If you do need new number plates, we can create both full sets and a singular front or back replacement, for an affordable price. Check out our number plate builder to create your own set, and read more about how to change your number plates if you’re planning to fit them yourself.

Find this article interesting? Then you may enjoy: ‘7 obscure driving laws you might be unaware of’. You can also explore our full range of motoring products and services over at

You want safe and legal driving, you want Halfords.