How are you getting along with the new rules for number plates that came into play at the start of 2021? You mean you’re not aware of any new rules and you’ve just continued as you were in 2020? If you’re not aware of the changes and you’re one of the vast majority who have just carried on in their own merry way there’s probably no need to worry. However, until you know what the new rules are you could be at risk of falling foul of them or you could be missing out on some potential benefits.
There are four main areas of change to be aware of, which are historical vehicle status, ‘green’ number plates, GB stickers, and some technical changes to the rules governing the making of UK registration plates. Let’s take a look at each area in a little detail so you’ll know exactly where you stand and whether or not you’re currently a miscreant.
Historic (classic) Vehicle Status
First of all, please don’t get confused between historic vehicle status and classic car insurance. Although a car that now qualifies for historic vehicle will probably also qualify for classic car insurance, the government and DVLA do not decide whether an insurance provider will accept your car for their special insurance policies.
What DVLA accepted historic vehicle status does mean to you is that you will no longer have to pay road tax and you will no longer have to put your vehicle through an MOT test, but even if your vehicle is exempt from road tax it may not necessarily qualify to be MOT exempt.
The road tax exemption is the easy bit as any car that was built before January 1st, 1981 qualifies as long as you apply to the DVLA for vehicle tax exemption. Even if you’re not exactly sure of your vehicle’s build date, as long as it was first registered before January 8th, 1981 it can qualify for road tax exemption as long as you apply.
Life is a little more complicated if you also want your vehicle to no longer have to go through an annual MOT test. As well as your vehicle needing to have been built or first registered more than 40 years ago, to be exempt from the MOT rules requires a vehicle to have not undergone ‘substantial changes’ during the last 30 years.
Substantial changes are designated as things like having had the chassis, body, axles or engine replaced during the last 30 years, but if you’re not sure you can check out the guidance notes on the government website or consult with an expert in historic vehicles.
“Green” registration plates
Green registration plates are not exactly what you might think they are, so don’t worry about having a white number plate on the front of your vehicle and a yellow one at the rear as that’s still how it should be. The ‘green’ bit actually applies to a green flash on the left-hand side of some number plates that can now be displayed on vehicles that are powered exclusively by electricity, but not on hybrids, plug-in-hybrids or any other vehicle with one of those ghastly planet-killing internal combustion engines.
These new green number plates inform the world that you are good and virtuous and your vehicle is powered exclusively by electricity, but the real reason you should probably have them if you drive an electric vehicle (EV) is they could bring tangible benefits.
Although there’s no national scheme to put cash in your pocket if you drive an EV with green number plates, the idea behind them is they might exclude you from having to pay when you drive into zero- or perhaps even low-emissions zones in towns and cities. It could also allow you to park for free in some places and to park in spaces specially designated for ‘green’ cars.
With the way some over-zealous local councils are going these days, the only way you’ll be able to drive at all in some places will be if you have an EV and display these plates.
If you’re below a certain age, the idea of having a sticker on the back of your vehicle showing what country you’re from might sound a bit odd, but before the days of the EU, that’s exactly what you had to have if you wanted to drive on the continent. Many years ago, the old stickers were dispensed with and they were replaced by registration plates that had an EU flag on them instead. In fact, if your car is a couple of years old you probably still have one of those plates on it right now.
However, from January 1st, 2021 the UK left the transition period and is no longer a member of the EU, and new number plates don’t have that controversial (to some) blue flash on them anymore. Therefore, if you want to drive your car in EU member countries you will have to once again display a GB sticker, and it doesn’t matter if you still have the old EU number plates as they’re no longer acceptable without the accompanying GB sticker.
The final change to be aware of is concerned with the design of UK number plates, and plenty of people could fall foul of this one later in the year. The British Standards Institute (BSI) has changed the rules about the manufacturing of UK number plates, and different shades of black lettering that have previously been used to create a 3D effect will no longer be allowed.
A single shade of black will now be mandatory on UK number plates, so any shade other than this will soon be illegal. Although plates conforming to the new standard have been issued since January 1st, plates that do not conform to the new standard will not be committing an offence until September 1st, 2021.
The new rules are said to mean the new plates will be more durable, but the other reason given appears to be the real one as it’s to make number plates more compatible with those lovely ANPR cameras that are already so good at issuing fixed penalty notices for our motoring discretions.
So there you have it. You’re now fully aware of the new rules governing number plates and you can use the information in whatever way you see fit.