DVLA says NO to going digital

They're proving popular overseas in the USA, but so far the DVLA says digital number plates won't be welcome in the UK any time soon.
28/06/2022 News
Changes to the highway code 2022

Praised for their modern look, and the way in which they can simplify the registration renewal process, the plates use a HD screen to display the vehicle registration. There are even options to present a personal message as well, while users can also choose between black letters and numbers on a white background or white on a black background, allowing for a lot more customisation than is currently allowed in the UK.

The digital plates can be powered by battery but wiring them directly into the vehicle instead grants the plate a GPS capability, which can be monitored by a phone app - useful, should you ever need to track your vehicle. Added to all of this, they can be used to display public emergency alert messages ‘beamed in’ from the local government. There are also plans to integrate them with other traffic monitoring devices, to make the paying of parking fees and road tolls for example, easier.

Whilst in the UK, registration marks essentially ‘belong’ to the vehicle they are assigned to, in the US they belong to the individual and as such, a registration being digitised makes it a great deal easier to transfer from vehicle to vehicle online. What’s also different in the US is that a registration mark or plate needs to either be replaced every year or have annual validation stickers attached to them, or fixed inside the windscreen of the vehicle (a headache we get to do without in this country), so a digital plate can make this process easier, too.

Digital plates certainly won’t let you get away with delaying the annual renewal though as they are able to display the message ‘INVALID’ on your plates until the relevant annual fee is paid! The digital plates are really catching on in North America with 3 states allowing them to be sold and more states expected to follow soon. Although they aren’t yet widely available for sale, the digital plates are legal for road use across all 50 states and they are also permitted in Mexico, and Canada. They won’t be coming to the UK, though.

Map of uk with crossed out sign on top

The DVLA has said there are no plans to go digital, and partly this may be due to the changes that would be required in order for US plates to fit our current legislation. Changing the character font and background colours, for example, does not fit with what’s legal here at the moment. And, whilst digital plates would prove useful to owners of personal registrations who tend to transfer them from vehicle to vehicle, it’s worth bearing in mind that generally, plates tend to stay with their vehicles in the UK and so many of the advantages offered by the digital version simply do not apply over here. As for the GPS capability, well, we can already install GPS trackers if desired, and do so more discreetly than via a digital number plate.

The DVLA’s decision will also save us a few pounds, because going digital in the US currently requires a monthly subscription of around £20, not to mention an installation fee of around £120! So, whilst we might not be technologically fancy, at least we’re not out of pocket, which makes for a very welcome change indeed!

Talking of saving money, if you’d like to customise your vehicle with a personal registration, we can save you a small fortune at plates4less. Simply visit our website for a browse or call a member of our team on 01792 477316 to see how we can help you today.