MOT Test of Registration plates and Vehicle Identification Number* (VIN) | What is checked

Number Plate Registration No

Identification of the vehicle (0)

(Formerly MOT Test of registration plates and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN))


MOT Test of registration plates (number plate)

  • Required on all vehicles unless they are unregistered, foreign, diplomatic or military
  • May be white, grey or silver characters on black background if vehicle made before 1st January 1978

NOTE: Revised Registration Plate (number plate) Testing and Tow Bar Testing (see below) were effective from April 09.

The following items will not be inspected:

  • the supplier’s name
  • postcode
  • BS number
  • logos or emblems outside the minimum margin around the registration number

Three-wheeled vehicles that do not have a body type which is characteristic of the body of a four-wheeled vehicle do not require a front number plate. All other vehicles, including quadricycles, must be fitted with front and rear registration plates, which must both be checked to ensure the registration number displayed is the same.

Registration plates must not:

  • 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 should not be confused with a honeycomb effect background

Attention will be paid to the position of any fixing screws or bolts as well as any delamination of the number plate as this can prevent identification of the vehicle by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras which ‘see’ any non-reflective material as being black.

Registration plates may:

  • have an optional non-reflective border displayed within the margin – this must be no wider than 6mm and not within 5mm of the characters
  • on vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1978, display white, grey or silver characters on a black background

Registration plate characters:

  • may contain grey, possibly to achieve a 3D effect
  • must be the correct size, stroke width and spacing
  • mustn’t be italic, sloping or formed using broken or multiple strokes
  • must be laid out in the correct format for the age of vehicle
  • must be formed using the prescribed font or be substantially similar to the prescribed font – as shown below:

New MOT number plate regs style graphic

Registration plates fitted to vehicles manufactured on or after 1 January 1978 must:

  • have black characters on a white background when fitted to the front
  • have black characters on a yellow background when fitted to the rear
  • be fitted vertically, or as close to vertical as is reasonably practicable

Registration plates may be in a single or two line formats. Additionally, a three line format is permitted on vehicles first used before 1 September 2001.

New MOT number plate layout regs

Registration plates must meet the dimensional requirements shown in the example below. However, the space between a number ‘1’ or a letter ‘I’ and another character is permitted to be proportionately greater.

Vehicles with non-date related plates, such as those issued before 1963 and Northern Ireland plates must still meet the separation requirement between groups of characters where relevant.

New MOT Rules number plate graphic

Vehicles registered before 1 September 2001 can have larger plates fitted with characters 89mm high and other relevant dimensions that are subsequently larger.

Imported vehicles that don’t have the space for standard sized registration plates can have smaller registration plates.

MOT Registration Plate Specifications

Relevant Dimension

Tricycles & quadricycles

All other vehicles

Character height



Character width (except for the figure 1 or letter I)



Stroke width



Space between two characters in group



Vertical space between groups of characters



Horizontal space between groups of characters30mm33mm

Margins (Minimum)



The following categories apply to defects in this section:

a. Number plate missing or so insecure that it is likely to fall off
b. Number plate inscription missing or illegibleMajor
c. Number plate showing an incorrect registration
d. Number plate does not conform to the specified requirements

Vehicle Identification Number* (VIN)

All vehicles first used on or after 1st August 1980 require a VIN number. For kit cars and amateur built vehicles that applies if first used after 1st September 2001

Vehicles may have the VIN displayed in more than one location, but only one VIN is required to be complete and legible.

A vehicle should not have more than one VIN displayed, other than for multi-stage build vehicles. Multi-stage build vehicles can have 2 VINs, both of which may have the same last 8 digits.

The following categories apply to defects in this section:

a. VIN missing or cannot be found
b. VIN incomplete, illegible or obviously falsified
c. More than one different VIN displayed

Link to all MOT Test procedures and failure items descriptions HERE

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