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The Rules and Regulations for Black and Silver Number Plates

Ask Footman James - The Rules and Regulations for Black and Silver Number Plates

Since 1903, it has been a legal requirement for vehicles to display a number plate. Since then, the number plate has gone through several developments including the 1973 change from black and silver number plates to yellow rear and white front reflective plates.

Black and silver number plates on a classic vehicle can give it an extra finishing touch of authenticity that many owners desire. But did you know that not every classic vehicle is able to display black and silver number plates? In this article, we talk you through the rules and regulations of when you can, and when you can’t display one.

To display a traditional number plate, your vehicle must meet two criteria (updated January 2021):

With effect from the 1st January 2021, there has now been a change and going forward, any vehicle constructed after 1 January 1980 are now not eligible to display the classic black and silver number plates despite being recorded in the DVLA’s historic tax class. Those vehicles with a construction date prior to 1 January 1980 will continue to be able to legally display black and silver number plates to avoid any undue costs of replacement.

On top of this, from the 1 January 2021 it will no longer be permissible to fix a new number plate displaying a Euro symbol. Number plates already fixed to vehicles are unaffected. The DVLA will also be introducing a new British Standard for number plates produced from 1 September 2021 which will mean all current style number plates that are first fixed to a vehicle from that date must meet the technical requirements contained in that standard.

If your vehicle meets the above criteria you must apply for the historic vehicles tax class. As you may already know, vehicles over 40 years old are exempt from vehicle tax, but you do need to inform the authorities by either applying for the historic vehicles tax or by declaring it as off the road using SORN.

It’s worth noting that even though the DVLA use 40 years of age to define a historic vehicle, you can purchase classic vehicle insurance for motors much younger than this. For instance, if you are a member of the Jaguar Enthusiast’s club, your insurance company may be able to provide cover for a Jaguar from brand new.

The Rules & Regulations for Black & Silver Number Plates

If you meet the two sets of criteria above and decide to go ahead and purchase black and silver number plates, you must do so from a registered number plate supplier. You can search for registered suppliers local to your area by visiting gov.uk/number-plate-supplier. This ensures that the number plate meets the standard required by the DVLA. There are a variety of options you can choose from including pressed metal, plastic or even hand-painted digits depending on your preference and/or budget.

Also, don’t forget to take your log book and some photographic ID with you when you visit your supplier. They will need these to ensure that your vehicle is compliant with the rules explained above.


For further guidance, visit the DVLA website where you can download a booklet which fully describes all the rules and regulations.
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