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4D Plates

If you’ve had your ear to the ground of the vehicle world for a while, you’ll probably have heard of the concept of 4D number plates.

However, even if you’ve heard about 4D number plates before, you might not know the ins and outs of how they work, how they differ from 3D plates, and where they stand in terms of legality.

Read on for all the key information you’ll need to know before you consider investing in a 4D number plate.

  What are 4D Plates?

Before we launch into explaining what a 4D number plate is, we thought it would be useful to start our explanation with an overview of the concept of a 3D plate. After all, the 3D plate is essentially the origin of the 4D plate.

3D plates are basically your typical number plate, except that the numbers and letters are covered with a gel resin that makes them stand out against the backdrop of the plate. The gel creates a 3D effect that makes the number plate more eye-catching and modern-looking.

Some 3D plates are actually not 3D at all, but simply feature lettering and numbering that has been drawn in a 3-dimensional font.

Building on this concept, the 4D plate features acrylic letters and numbers that have been laser-cut and hand-placed on the plate for an even bolder and tangibly 3-dimensional effect.

 What Makes 4D Plates 4D?

Now, here’s where things can get a little confusing. Contrary to what the name implies, 4D plates are not actually 4D.

4D, of course, stands for 4-dimensional. If a shape or object is 4-dimensional in the scientific sense, this means that it features a dimension in addition to breadth, width, and depth (the requirements for a shape to become 3D, or 3-dimensional). If something is 4-dimensional, it needs a 4th measurement (dimension) in order to be accurately described or located.

While this might all sound quite complicated (and, when you think about it, it is), the good news is that you don’t need to know all the science behind the distinction between 4D and 3D to grasp the difference between these types of plates.

Essentially, a 4D plate is actually just an enhanced 3D plate. The only real difference is that the acrylic letters and numbers are bolder and protrude further than the gel resin digits featured on 3D plates.

To summarize, 4D number plates are not strictly 4-dimensional according to the mathematical definition. They are called 4D plates because they physically stand out more than 3D number plates.

Car vs. Motorbike 4D Plates

The standard 4D plate is designed for use on the front and rear of a car. However, other variants are available for motorbikes.

In most cases, 4D number plates, as with 2D and 3D plates, are interchangeable between motorbikes and 4-wheeled vehicles. However, there are some specific legal requirements concerning motorbike plates.


In the U.K., the law dictates that motorbike plates must be rectangular. This rule does not apply to cars, which can feature square plates. If you’re specifically looking for a 4D number plate for your motorbike, you’ll need to make sure that it’s rectangular.

Other than that, the only difference between 4D plates for motorbikes and cars in the U.K. is the placement, which doesn’t concern the design of the plate itself.

The Legality of 4D Plates

If you’ve been considering getting a 4D plate for your car or bike, you may have come across the issue of legality during your research.

Discussions surrounding the legality of 4D plates can be confusing (and rife with misinformation), but we have good news for you! Ultimately, 4D number plates are completely legal both in the U.K., as long as they conform and adhere to British Standards (BS AU 145e).

The reason there has been some confusion around whether or not 4D plates are legal for road use is the circulation of a DVLA newsletter which implied that these number plates would not meet the updated British Standards in 2021. However, this suggestion has since been debunked.

As long as a 4D plate is reflective, not obscured in terms of legibility, features black lettering, and has the correct backing colour for both the front and rear of the car, you shouldn’t have any problems.

The only scenario in which driving with a 4D number plate could breach the law would be if one or several of the letters/numbers were damaged or missing. This, of course, is the case with all number plates under U.K. law.

It is considered a motoring offence in the U.K. to drive with a number plate that is not clearly visible or legible – legible being the key word here. If one of the digits on your number plate falls off, your number plate is no longer legible in its entirety.

This presents a problem because it means that your vehicle cannot be easily identified in the event of an accident, speed camera interaction, or dispute. For a minor offence of this kind, the usual penalty is a £100 fine. 

Because 4D number plates are more susceptible to damage than your standard number plate, or even a 3D number plate, this piece of legislation is something that 4D plate owners should bear in mind.

Otherwise, however, 4D number plates that are designed in compliance with BS AU 145e are completely in line with U.K. law.

Final Thoughts

The main information to take away regarding 4D plates is that these number plates are designed to make your vehicle’s information more eye-catching through the use of laser-cut, acrylic lettering and numbering. 

4D plates are not, in the mathematical sense, 4-dimensional. They are simply built so that the numbers and letters protrude further than the gel resin on 3D plates will allow.

Remember, 4D plates are legal according to U.K. motoring legislation, although your plate must still comply with the latest British Standards in accordance with BS AU 145e and you must make sure that none of the digits become damaged if you want to avoid a fine.