Stay Legal if you are Opting for a Personalised Number Plate

By: Philip Smith

New cars registered from the beginning of March carry the first '07 registration plates. For many motorists it is a badge of pride to own a car whose plate broadcasts the fact that it is straight out of the showroom.

But increasing numbers of car owners are choosing to buy their own, personalised registration numbers. This may appeal if you want to choose a number you can easily remember. Some personalised number plates are also seen as a type of investment as they may rise in value.

You should be aware that if you are considering buying a number of your choice, there are legal requirements governing the information it carries.

A new format was introduced on 1 September 2001 and new plates issued since then have had to use a specific typeface. The aim was to ensure that number plates were easy to read. A new registration system carrying codes on where the car was first registered and its age was introduced at the same time.

Number plates fitted before September 2001 did not have to be changed provided the lettering was substantially the same as the new type. However, number plates with stylised letters or figures, such as italics, are not permitted and nor are plates with fixing bolts that alter the appearance of the numbers - for example between two number ones to create a capital H. There are separate rules for cars manufactured before 1 January 1973; they can still show the traditional black and white plates.

Cars that have illegally displayed numbers may fail the MoT and the police can issue fines of up to ?1,000. Plates must be replaced if they are damaged so badly that the numbers cannot be read. You can make your vehicle look as old as you want but you cannot use a number plate that makes it look newer.

The AA says that someone who repeatedly interferes with their number plates could be heavily fined and have points added on their license. "That's when the insurer would need to be informed. The insurer may apply a penalty premium that would remain for three years."

But both the AA and Norwich Union, part of the same insurance group that owns the RAC, say that simply having a personalised number plate will make no difference to your car insurance premium. A Norwich Union spokeswoman says: "We would know it's a personalised plate as the customer has to provide their registration number when getting a motor insurance quote." A leading agency selling personalised plates also says that a special plate should not affect your motoring premiums.

However, insurers vary in their attitudes to the types of customers and vehicles they cover so it's always good to shop around for the best or cheapest car insurance. Sophie Neary, product director for BeatThatQuote.com says: "The golden rule with insurance is that, if in doubt, ask what the company's policy is. It may be that the addition of a personalised plate makes the car more attractive to break into as it implies a level of wealth."

The introduction of the first '07 registrations coincides with the launch of BeatThatQuote.com's motor insurance service. Whatever your car or circumstances, there is no need to pay over the odds for a motor policy. BeatThatQuote.com will search and compare for you giving you the best motor insurance quote.

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