The Reason Behind UK’s White Front and Yellow Rear Registration Plates

Have you ever wondered why the registration plates in the UK are white in the front and yellow at the rear? This unique colour scheme is not just a random choice, but a well-thought-out system that has been in place for many years. The reason behind this colour differentiation is quite interesting and practical. Let’s delve into the details and understand why the UK has adopted this system.

Historical Background

The current system of white front and yellow rear registration plates was introduced in the UK in 1973. Before this, both front and rear plates were black with white or silver characters. The change was made to conform to the European regulation, which required a system that would allow for easy identification of the vehicle’s origin.

The Reason for the Colour Difference

The primary reason for having different colours for the front and rear plates is to quickly and easily identify the direction in which a vehicle is travelling. The white front plate is designed to reflect the headlights of oncoming vehicles, making it easier for other drivers and pedestrians to see the vehicle at night. On the other hand, the yellow rear plate is less reflective, making it easier to read in the dark or under low light conditions.

Practical Implications

The colour differentiation between the front and rear plates has several practical implications. Firstly, it helps law enforcement officers in identifying whether a vehicle is coming or going. This can be particularly useful in hit-and-run incidents or when tracking a vehicle involved in a crime. Secondly, it aids in the identification of vehicles in CCTV footage, especially at night. Lastly, it helps other road users in determining the direction of a vehicle, which can be crucial in foggy or low visibility conditions.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Yes, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Classic or vintage cars that were manufactured before 1973 are allowed to use the old black and white or black and silver scheme. Additionally, some military vehicles and vehicles belonging to the royal family have unique registration plates.


The system of having white front and yellow rear registration plates in the UK is a practical solution that aids in vehicle identification and enhances road safety. While it may seem like a minor detail, it plays a significant role in the overall traffic system. So, the next time you see a vehicle with a white front and yellow rear plate, you’ll know the reason behind it!