So we’ve all seen the video of the police officer talking about the 3D/4D plates laws in 2021 and the blog article written by a certain car page.

We get sent these on a daily basis and understand your concern about the legalities in regards to your plates and the future of the custom plate industry.

Future of 3D/4D Plates: New Law 2021

If you’re weighing up 3D vs 4D number plates, then your biggest concern is probably going to be whether they’re legal.

The rules for displaying number plates will change from September 1 2021, making things a little more complicated.

To help you understand how it all works, we’re going to explain the current rules about number plates and what’s changing

Will 3D and 4D Plates Still Be Legal?

The short answer is YES. You can breathe a sigh of relief. Currently, characters on a number plate can be 3D, so long as:

  • The number plate’s material is reflective
  • There’s no background pattern
  • Front plate letters are black on white
  • Rear plate letters are black on yellow

Number plate characters must be of a specific size and height:

  • All the characters must be 79mm tall
  • They must be 55mm wide, except the number 1 or letter I
  • The strokes on these black characters must be 14mm thick
  • Spaces between them must be 11mm.

There are other rules regarding character spacing and margins, which you can find in the DVLA’s INF104 leaflet.

BUT, from 1 September 2021, there will be certain differences between what is or isn’t permitted depending on physical plate codes.

How Number Plate Codes Affect Number Plate Rules

The BSAU code on a number plate shows what standard the plate has been manufactured to:

  • BSAU 145d codes apply to plates manufactured BEFORE 1 September 2021
  • BSAU 145e codes apply to plates manufactured AFTER 1 September 2021.

The old rules will continue to apply to BSAU 145d coded plates, BUT new rules will apply to BSAU 145e coded plates.

Therefore, from September 2021, you’ll need to check your number plate code to see if your number plate design is still within the rules. This applies to 3D and 4D plates too.

If your number plates were road legal at the time of purchase, they’ll still be legal providing they display the BSAU 145d code on the plate itself.

If you have a number plate made AFTER 1 September 2021, it will display the BS145e code and must follow the new DVLA rules.

3D/4D plates laws: September 2021 changes
3D/4D plates laws: September 2021 changes

What are the New DVLA Number Plate Rules?

Changes that come into force from September 2021 reflect changes to British Standards Institute (BSI) technical standards for number plates.

These new standards will mean number plates are tougher and easier for the ANPR cameras to read. These are the cameras that spot driving offences. You’ll already be aware of your 3D plates being readable in this way if you’ve received a fine or penalty.

What are the implications for 3D and 4D plates? Letters and numbers must be a single shade of black. Therefore, you cannot have two-tone number plates.

However, this rule doesn’t prevent you from having 3D or 4D plates, providing they are a single black shade.

Whereas using two colours might accentuate a three-dimensional appearance, the actual manufacture of 3D plates involves the coating of sheet-cut characters in polyurethane gel. This raises them off the number plate surface.

The same basic principle of raised characters applies to 4D number plates, except these are usually made by using laser-cut acrylic letters and numbers.

3D becomes illegal if it isn’t really 3D at all, but a normal, 2D font using colour shading to make it look like it stands out in relief from the plate surface.

How Will I Know if My Number Plate is Legal?

If you’ve got a number plate displaying a BSAU 145d manufacturing code, then it’s okay to carry on driving with it.

This is providing it already follows current DVLA rules.

From 1 September 2021, if you get a new number plate, it must follow the new rules and have only one shade of black for its letters and numbers. You’ll be able to tell if it’s a new plate because it will carry the BSAU 145e code.

Providing you’ve got the right number plate code, your 3D or 4D plate will be fine for the future.

Keep Up with Number Plate Changes

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