car reg

Why are number plates white and yellow?

28th Jun, 2022

Different nations have their own methods for registering their cars, and no matter where you go, colour always plays a part. Here in the UK, our registration plates feature two colours – yellow plates at the back, and white plates in front. But why is this? Well, it won’t be a surprise for you to learn that the reasoning behind this is more functional than fashionable, and here at Scrap Car Network, we’re here to break it down for you.

As we’ll get into in further detail below, there are several rules that car owners need to stick to in regards to their number plates. If your plates don’t quite meet these requirements, don’t fret! There are plenty of things that you can do before you think “it’s time to scrap my car”. In that spirit, here’s everything you need to know about the current colour scheme of UK registration plates.

A short history

Until 1979, UK number plates were black with either silver or white characters. This is the point from which we shifted to our current yellow and white system. The old black plates were still legally usable up until 2012, but you won’t see them on UK roads today.

Here’s a fun fact – military vehicles still utilise black plates with white or silver characters and have to be made from non reflective materials. This is so they can better avoid being targeted by laser sighted weapons when operating in hostile territory.

So why are number plates yellow and white?

It’s a question that has caused a lot of debate online, with some car owners believing that the yellow number plate was chosen because it’s illegal to show a white light at the rear of your vehicle, since number plates are made from reflective materials, and others believe it’s a style that we’ve inherited from the French, since they’ve been using vehicle registration plates far longer than we have.

But the truth of the matter is even simpler according to the DVLA. By making the front number plate white, and the rear plate yellow, other drivers can quickly assess at a glance if they’re looking at the front or rear of a vehicle. This in turn allows drivers on the road to weigh up the likelihood that a vehicle is either moving away from them, or coming towards them.

White background with black alphanumeric characters give road users the best chance of reading the registration clearly. Why yellow for the rear plate? Well, it’s the next clearest colour for the human eye to read black characters on.

What colour plates are legal?

There are a few things worth keeping in mind with regards to the legislation behind your license plates. Laws regarding registration plates in the UK are pretty strict and infractions could cost you a failed MOT and a fine of up to £1,000.

In order to be considered legal, a number plate needs to comply with all the rules on spacing, size, margin requirements as well as font. It also needs to be kept in line with requirements involving no patterns and set colours. These rules are non-negotiable, but you are allowed to add a flag to your registration if you fancy adding a pop of colour.

If your number plates have seen better days (along with the rest of your car) you might be thinking it’s time to Scrap my car. Here at Scrap Car Network, we make it as easy as possible for you to scrap your car. We won’t be beaten on price and getting a quote is easy – just enter a few details about your vehicle on our homepage and you’ll get an instant price! Why not see how much your vehicle is worth?

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