Number plates are the most popular illegal car modification

Illegal number plates can be used to dodge number plate recognition cameras (Picture iStock/yevtony)

You’ve given your car a good clean but it still doesn’t quite say enough about you. What about a modification?

Perhaps a fancy new number plate that spells out your name. Or some tinted windows to make it look a bit more ‘gangsta’. Or even some tasty lights that illuminate the road beneath as you drive along.

Of course we’re not against freedom of expression. But there are laws that must be abided by when it comes to car modifications, even if those changes are just cosmetic. New research by Comparethemarket has revealed the most popular modifications that have landed drivers in hot water.

Number plates the most common illegal mod

The comparison website asked every police force in the UK. The 36 that responded said most offences related to number plates. In 2020, there were 13,720 fines handed out to drivers whose number plates broke the law. That made up 56 per cent of all offences.

What’s the penalty?

Currently illegal number plates result in a £100 fine. But the law looks like it’s going to get tougher. There’s a proposal for a new private members’ bill in parliament that would see drivers with dodgy plates getting three points on their licence as well as a fine.

The government is also keen to crack down further on the modification of reg plates and their illegal use. A Home Office spokesman said: “The cloning and defacing of number plates affects road safety and provides cover for criminals. We are working with the police to bear down on these crimes.”

What do we mean by illegal number plates?

These can include letters being shown in illegal fonts and designs. But they might also include unlawful spacing of characters and the inclusion of coloured screws or black tape to make characters look like something different and spell a word.

Another illegal modification is when drivers use a reflective coating on their reg plate. This prevents traffic cameras being able to identify them. And criminals use fake number plates so they can drive without being liable for traffic fines or avoid paying for petrol.

Messing with the spacing or lettering can make a plate illegal (Picture iStock/jamesjames2541)

Illegal lights are a turn off

According to the police who responded, 5,723 fines (23 per cent of modification offences) were issued to drivers who had illegal lights. The law says that only white lights can be used at the front; red for rear-facing lights (obviously excluding indicators and reversing lights).

Tinted windows are a bit shady

Drivers can tint the rear side and back windows as much as they like. But there are limits when it comes to the windscreen or front side windows. Police can serve drivers who break the law with what’s called a prohibition notice. This demands they fix their car before using it again. There were 4,183 reported window offences last year, 17 per cent of the total.

Loud exhausts can cause a headache

You might want your car to sound like it’s got a throbbing V8 engine beneath the bonnet but the police have different ideas. Last year 3 per cent of the illegal modifications (776 offences) were to exhausts. Drivers whose exhausts are overly noisy can be fined £50 on the spot. As with windows, they might have their car taken off the road until it’s been made to comply with the law.

What’s the impact on insurance?

Even if you modify your car legally, you must tell your insurer. And if you make illegal modifications, your insurer may refuse to cover you if you have to make a claim. According to data from Comparethemarket, modifying a car – even if it’s legal ‑ can increase your premium by around 11 per cent.

If you’re looking for a garage that can make a legal modification to your car, Green Flag could find one for you.

12 comments on “Number plates are the most popular illegal car modification

  1. Darcy James 06/10/2021 9:54 AM

    Very useful post I really appreciate thanks for sharing such a nice post.

  2. Henry Frodsham 19/10/2021 11:41 AM

    Hi,Darcy thanks thanks for that good information very useful.Let’s hope more people will take notice.Henry

  3. Frank Streather 20/10/2021 9:33 AM

    Yes I see loads of these illegally spaced numberplates every day but nothing seems to be done to change them.

  4. Anthony Hawks 20/10/2021 3:48 PM

    How about NPR at all filling stations linked to an insurance bar code only available from an insurance company?
    Present the bar code before filling up with fuel. If the bar code and number plate don’t match- no fuel! Might reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road!

  5. Steven garner 21/10/2021 6:33 AM

    Very useful information for those that don’t know. Just want to add that car manufacturers should add built in dash cams to all cars like they do reversing cameras with recording capabilities.

  6. Bernard O'Hagan 21/10/2021 5:43 PM

    Agree with all the above info from Green Flag but why do I see so many HGV’s showing red or blue lights at the front of their vehicle albeit mainly in the cab

  7. Robert Abramczyk 22/10/2021 9:29 AM

    I have noticed a fall off of illegal fonts but an increase of what appears to be 3d printed plates. These don’t, in the main have the suppliers details on the bottom which I thought was a legal requirement.
    Good content again.

  8. Colin S Cartledge 22/10/2021 10:00 AM

    Very good article people are always trying to go against the rules and the law.
    There is no place on our roads for noisy modified cars usually driven by immature
    drivers who think they can get away with speeding and camera ID.

    Noisy car radios is another pet hate of mine, could they produce a radio that has a volume limiter and mute when car is reversing a safety issue is many drivers would not ear a child or persons audible warnings because of in car noise levels.

    • David James-Bailey 01/11/2021 8:35 PM

      Some cars already have this facility. My Golf Mk7 does!

  9. garry robinson 31/10/2021 10:30 AM

    why do the police turn a blind eye to front number plates on the dashboard permanently if you had an mot with front plate behind the windscreen it would fail ,that make it un road worthy.

  10. Chris Evans 06/11/2021 12:03 PM

    The post was really amazing. Every content on your website makes me a fan of it!

  11. offers 17/11/2021 5:18 PM

    Suppose I have a vehicle and I need to make a few changes myself without an expert. It very well may be for no reason in particular or individual exploration/testing. I may simply add a train horn, an auto-breaking framework, a semi-self-driving framework, something to that effect. Accepting I don’t roll out an improvement that plainly and straightforwardly makes driving risky like detaching the breaks.

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