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What are 4D number plates & are they legal?

Many of us like a car that stands out and shows personality – and a big way to do that is with number plates. We’ve all heard of personalised number plates, but what about the latest trend; the rise of eye-catching 4D number plates. 

In this article, we’ll be exploring what 4D number plates are, whether they are legal, and also the current and upcoming number plate legislation. 

What are 4D number plates?

4D number plate

Simply put, 4D plates are one step up from the 3D number plates, and give your plate a new level of depth and make a unique statement on the roads. Whereas 3D features slightly raised characters, the 4D alternative features laser-cut acrylic numbers and letters bonded to the plate using an adhesive to give a striking raised effect. 

As well as the legally required black font, each character can be backed by a different colour to give it an extra something special. That said, legislation comes into force in September 2021 meaning this two-tone effect will be banned in favour of solid black. 

Which number plates are legal?

With all these different styles of number plate available, how do you know which ones are safe legal – and which ones aren’t? 

The DVLA lays out certain legal guidelines for what the appearance of a number plate should include, and these are: 

  • Manufactured on a reflective background
  • Must adhere to spacing regulations and use the standard font
  • Bolts or any other marks which affect the readability of the characters is disallowed
  • Lettering must be of equal height
  • Front plates must have black letters on a white background while the back plates must have black letters on a yellow background.  
  • A number plate must contain the following information: the British Standard Number, the name and postcode of the supplying outlet, along with the name, trade mark, or another method of identification of the manufacturer or supplier

Anything that does not comply with these regulations could result in a fine. 

What types of registration plates can you get?

Electric green number plate

There are many number plate options out there, so let’s explore some of the key styles. 

  • Green electric car plates: Electric car owners can proudly display their eco-friendly credentials with car number plates that feature a green flash on the side 
  • Tinted number plates: They incorporate a darker tinted layer over the reflective layer which reduces the brightness. Due to this they’re illegal. 
  • Sticker number plates: Flimsy peel-off number plates that ‘stick’ on and are easy to place and remove. As many are not manufactured with reflective material and to the standards set out they are often illegal.
  • 3D number plates: Gel-raised numbers and letters give this style a slightly raised appearance 
  • 4D number plates: Created using laser-cut acrylic numbers for greater depth and impact. While currently they are allowed to be two-tone for added depth and customisation, from September 2021, they will be required to be solid black 

The 4 New 2021 Number Plate Laws

As a motorist, it’s important to keep up to date with new and upcoming laws. Here are some you should be aware of: 

  • As of January 2021, the EU flag will not be displayed on new number plates. 
  • Also as of January 2021, vintage number plates are only allowed on pre-1980s vehicles. 
  • As of December 2020, electric car owners can now enjoy a green flash on their number plate to mark them out as EVs. 
  • Looking forward, in September 2021 we will see a new, more durable and flexible standard of number plate entitled BS145e. These will be much sturdier and resistant to impact and abrasion – and will also be picked up more easily on cameras. However, this new standard means that 4D number plates will no longer be allowed to be two-tone and will require solid black lettering. 


Here at Mr Tyre, we’re the go-to tyre fitters for Central England. With over 35+ autocentres, you can trust that there’s a Mr Tyre expert near you for a range of services, including MOT testing, tyre fitting, diagnostics, and many other needs. Want to find out more? Simply get in touch today. 

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