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MOT number plate rules

Introduced in 2018, the new MOT rules list number plates as the first thing to inspect.


What do the MOT rules mean by 'inscription'?

DVSA have clarified that 'inscription' means the registration number only.

What are the key changes in the MOT test from 2018?

There are now 5 categories (dangerous, major, minor, advisory and pass). All dangerous, major and minor defects have to be recorded.

There are four Major defects for number plates, one of which covers the broad number plate design and fixing.

The supplier's details and British Standard mark aren't required to be checked at MOT.

What's the difference between a 'Major' and a 'Dangerous' defect?

Defects that are failure items but aren’t deemed as ‘dangerous’ will be called ‘major’ defects.

Defects that are dangerous are set out for MOT testers, and the new ‘major’ term has been introduced for all other failures.

Copy thanks to Matters of Testing (

Number plates must be checked on the vast majority of vehicles.

The DVSA say that plates mustn't:

  • be obscured, excessively damaged, deteriorated or delaminated
  • have background overprinting
  • have any feature or fixing that has the effect of changing the appearance or legibility of any of the characters
  • have a honeycomb or similar effect background on vehicles first registered on or after 1 September 2001 – back lit registration plates may have a honeycomb type construction which shouldn't be confused with a honeycomb effect background.

Any one of these could be classed as a Major Defect (an MOT failure).

Major defects (previously called MOT failures)

  1. The number plate is missing or so insecure it's likely to fall off
  2. The number plate inscription (the registration number) is missing or illegible
  3. The number plate shows an incorrect registration
  4. The number plate does not conform to the specified requirements.
Any one of these is classed as a Major defect, previously classed as a fail.

Fixing is key

The rules say MOT stations should pay particular attention to the position of any fixing screws or bolts as well as any delamination of the number plate.

Either of these can prevent identification of the vehicle by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras which ‘see’ any non-reflective material as being black.

Other legislation covers checks on supplier and manufacturing rules

The MOT rules don't require MOT stations to check:

  • the supplier's name
  • postcode
  • the British Standard number
  • logos or emblems outside the minimum margin around the registration number.  This allows for lipped plates.

Find out more

To view the full MOT inspection rules about number plates, visit: 



For legal reasons, some copy has been replicated from the DVSA website.  Thanks to and MOT articles.