Motorcycle Number Plates – What’s the law in the UK?

The law is a funny thing. There are so many rules to follow that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all of them, and even harder to know which ones apply in specific situations.

In this blog post, we’ll be going over the Motorcycle Number Plates – What’s the Law? Starting with registration requirements for number plates, liability issues and more!

Motorcycle Plate Size

As of 2001, all characters on your license plate must be 64mm tall and 44mm wide, except for the number 1 or the letter I. There is no official rule about how big the plate has to be, as long as it contains the right size letters. 

Plates are typically 229x178mm (9x7in).

  • The letter ‘stroke’ must be 10mm thick, and the space between letters must be 10mm.
  • A gap of 30mm should exist between the age identification numbers and the random letters, and a gap of 13mm should exist between the top and bottom lines of text.
  • The distance between the lettering and the edge of the plate must be 11mm.

You can get away with a smaller plate if your registration contains loads of Is and 1s.

Registration Requirements

In the UK, every single vehicle that’s on the road needs to have a number plate.

This means cars, motorcycles and any other motorised vehicles you can think of! There are some exceptions though – agricultural tractors don’t need plates for example. If they do have one it must be obscured so no one knows who the owner is.

The law states that any vehicle over three years old must have a number plate on the front and back of it – even if you never use your motorcycle to drive around town, or only ride it occasionally!

There’s also no difference between personalised plates and normal ones – both need an inspection after they’re first put onto the vehicle.

Where To Buy Motorcycle Number Plates

Luckily for riders everywhere, there are a number of websites out there that sell motorcycle registration numbers. You can find some of our favourites here or check out eBay – if you’re lucky enough to snag yourself an auction, then go on and buy it!

Remember, you can’t just stick any old number onto your bike. The DVLA will not accept anything offensive or rude, so be careful what you choose to put on there – even if they are personalised plates and meant as a joke.

Insurance companies also have the right to reject claims for vehicles that don’t comply with the law, so save yourself the hassle and make sure you’re following all of these guidelines.

Motorcycle number plates can also be bought from any dealer who has a valid MOT certificate on the motorcycle they are being fitted to, or you can choose to buy them yourself and have an MOT garage fit them for you free of charge!

It’s easy enough to get hold of spare numbers if your current set is damaged – but make sure that you keep hold of them! After all, it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality.

What to do if you’ve Lost your Number Plate?

If you lose your number plate, there’s no need for panic – as long as it hasn’t been lost or stolen!

In this case, go down to the local police station and report it missing so that they can replace it with an equivalent plate. You’ll get a receipt for your number plate showing that you’re the legal owner, and they will do their best to find out who stole it if there is any evidence of theft!

If you’ve lost or damaged your old plates then this doesn’t mean that you need new ones – just keep hold of them until such time as you buy new ones.

You can also get replacement number plates if the vehicle has been changed in any way, or it’s just a spare set that you carry around with you in case of emergencies!

If they’re lost during an MOT inspection then there shouldn’t be too much trouble getting replacements – as long as the signs haven’t been tampered with.

What about Motorcycle Number Plates if you’re not in the UK?

If your motorcycle is on a temporary visit to somewhere else then this shouldn’t pose too much of an issue – as long as it’s registered for use during that time! You can register it using any number plate, but bear in mind that it can’t be used when you take the bike back home.

If your motorcycle is in another country for good then there’s a bit more to do – and this starts with getting hold of an appropriate vehicle registration document that proves that you own the bike!

Once you’ve got one, contact the UK embassy or consulate in that particular country and explain that you want to register your bike. You’ll need to provide them with the certificate number as well as a copy of the document, then wait for it all to be processed – which can take several weeks!

Liability Issues When using Motorcycle Number Plates

When driving on public roads there are certain legal responsibilities that drivers must adhere to.

For example, it’s common sense that you’ll need to drive on the correct side of the road and stick to driving through red lights if they’re showing! However, there are some things that aren’t so obvious…

If your number plate isn’t readable then this can be classed as a motoring offence – even if you’ve done nothing else wrong! Motorcycle number plates must be clearly visible and clear of any damage or tampering.

If your registration details aren’t up to date then this can lead to some serious problems – such as getting pulled over by the police for driving without a valid MOT certificate, even though you haven’t actually broken any laws yourself!

The good news is that there are several ways you can avoid these issues – including visiting a dealer to get your number plates! They’re experts at making sure everything’s legal and up-to-date, so they’ll keep the registration details of your motorcycle safe.

However, if you do buy some new number plates then be careful not to get ripped off – as there are some rogue traders out there who just want to make a quick buck!


If you do not adhere to this law, it can lead to a penalty of up to £1000 and three points on your licence! Although the police cannot pull over vehicles they suspect may not have visible number plates, they will still ask for proof that they are registered correctly if pulled over or stopped at any time.


The size and content of your plate don’t matter much to police officers.

Many bikers run noticeably small plates and are fine, only receiving a telling-off without any repercussions.

You may be pulled over by an officer for any one of the following motorcycle offenses:

  • A small plate
  • Noise
  • Tinted visor
  • Aggressive driving

Most bikers have checked off one of the big fours, and you’ll likely get off with a slap on the wrist. However, adding them up, you have a much greater possibility of getting the book thrown at you.

Usually people get done for a small plate, and the benefit of a small plate is purely cosmetic. You don’t want to risk a big fine just to make your back tyre look bigger.