Personalised Number Plates on vehicles

Take a look at the ‘personalised’ number plates. The aim of a number plate is to provide identification for a vehicle. So what have the idiots done? In order to make a dollar they are producing number plates with colour combinations that are very difficult to read at even a short distance. Dark red on black, blue on black etc. Just read the forums and see the ‘advice’ if you want an almost invisible number plate. Get the right colour combo and buy a clear plastic cover that makes the plate invisible on an angle. I’ve got photos of a number plate on a car that I can’t read. I was parked right behind it. Is that a good way to identify a vehicle that’s just been in an accident and is fleeing? Well, we’ll just have to wait until a politician’s family member gets hit and no-one can read the number plate of the car that hit them!

The Police don’t seem to care too much because they have electronic devices in their cars that can read the plates. How often do we have cars involved in accidents that flee the scene? It seems to happen more often these days and that’s where a normal person should be able to read the plate easily. The states’ normal colour combinations are good - Black on yellow, dark red on white, blue on white are all easy to read but the colour combinations available for personalised plates reduce the distance that the plate can be identified. It’s plain wrong and the governments of this land need to stop chasing the dollars and get on with having number plates that can be read.


Full agreement with what you say @johnkerr in relation to almost impossible to read number plates.

The other consideration is that it every state/territory used to have its own plate & letter colours to clearly identify origin. In addition, some had letters first others while others had numbers first. The ACT always started with the letter Y.

All that has gone by the wayside with personalised plates, there is no distinction and it is almost impossible to tell the state/territory the plate comes from.

So now, not only can we not read the registration number, we don’t even know where in Australia the vehicle is from.


Hi John, which state are you in ? In NSW, myplates (they handle the personalised plates, not Roads & Maritime) have, I believe, recalled some of the worst offending colour combinations. I used to have blue-on-black plates, and three years ago was pulled over by police whilst holidaying in Victoria. The officer acted as if he’d never seen a coloured plate, let alone one from just across the border. I’m sure he thought it was home-made before he got on the radio to check that it was a legitimate NSW plate.
( I now have high-contrast black-on-beige plates )

While it’s true we no longer have specific letters for specific states - it’s solely because of growth. Some states have run out of combinations using the traditional letters - Queensland put the numbers first when Bjelke-Petersen was Premier and now are nearly through the alphabet (they are down to “W”), so they will have to devise another sequence.

When you think about it, every registration plate in Australia is personalised - I’m the only one in my state with my plate. I choose not to pay extra to pick some different colours (or have some choice in the characters displayed).


I’m in NSW. I did hear that they were recalling some of the bad combinations but I hadn’t seen any proof. I did quite a bit of photographing of personalised plates around town. Apart from the colour combinations reducing the range of recognition, certain clear plastic covers prevent viewing certain combinations completely when you are on an angle. A police car right behind such a plate can read it but get on a 45degree angle and you can’t read the plate at all. I have examples of a few of these. The discussion on some of the naughty forums pointed this out which almost defeats the purpose of having a number plate (there was also advice about which were the most difficult colours to read. Now if naughty people have woken up to these tricks how come the Govt Dept responsible hasn’t?

I remember when Victoria started reissuing number plates starting from the beginning of their series that were no longer in circulation because it was said they were running out of plates.

For any state, the original three digit/three letter series makes it is possible to create 11,232,000 licence plates for each state/territory. According to a release by the ABS a year ago (, NSW had the highest motor vehicle registrations with 5,247,199. This would utilize less than half of the possible combinations available. I realize that some letter and/or number combinations are not generally released, but that still leave a lot of available capacity to produce new plates. In the whole of Australia, there were 18,007,767 motor vehicles registered, so just two states could provide enough (22,464,000) plates to cover all registered vehicles.

If desperate for more licence plates, why not go to a four letter and four number plate in each state/territory? That would give 1,808,352,000 possible number plates for each state/territory (if I did my maths correctly), OR, an additional 1,797,120,000 licence plates for each state/territory. Another suggestion is that we go to a system similar to the new land-line numbering system where the first two digits/letters indicate state/territory, and the remaining six spaces could be used as present since there would appear to be more than enough available permutations vs the number of registered vehicles?

So there is no driving imperative [couldn’t help the pun sorry] to move to these hard to read plates is there?

I’m sure that the various governments did extensive consultations with all the stakeholders (motorist associations, emergency services, road users, etc.) about the introduction of the multi-colour combination plates to ensure they were easy to read. Or, one could be cynical and say that allowing these hard to read colour plates is all about revenue raising. Lucky one is not cynical eh?

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No need to be cynical considering how long they have taken to get rid of some of the really bad combinations is there? :wink: The other interesting point is that 1 in 12 men are colour blind to some extent so obviously any consultation did not include the medical fraternity.

I did some of the maths and looked at the alternatives you have proposed and you soon see that there is no need for another type of plate unless, of course, it is just a revenue raiser which compromises road safety.


These are vanity plates designed purely for people who think they are more important than others. You are being exploited by Governments because of your ego purely for the purpose of raising tax revenue. You have a choice, don’t do it, pay up or shut up.
I am more concerned about Government fees and levies where people have no choice.


I agree with JHM Taylor, as I really dislike conspicuous consumption. Let people who are well off lead comfortable lives by all means, but one shouldn’t boast about the fact that one can afford to blow many hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on something so frivolous.
My main point though is that I’m waiting for the day that someone challenges in court a charge of having an unreadable (conventional) number plate by providing photographic proof of the unreadability of some of these personalised colour combinations.

Interesting! I’m in Queensland, and saw a number plate last week that I had NO chance of reading - it had letters or numbers but it wasn’t possible to see what they were because of the colour combination of background and printing! Totally unacceptable.


I don’t think I’m more important than others, but we have personalised plates on both of our cars. We’re in Qld and we decided it would be fun to get plates with cartoon characters on them when we bought our first ever new cars. They were only a few hundred dollars each (5+ years ago), which was a pittance in comparison to the brand new car each one went on.

I also know one person who got a personalised plate because their standard number plate had an unfortunate letter combination and they were actually verbally assaulted by someone who mistakenly thought they had chosen the letters and were associated with an organisation with whom that person was very angry. Rather than risk further misunderstandings and abuse, they got personalised plates. So there are reasons other than vanity for choosing personalised plates.

Anyway, getting back to the main topic, I agree they should be banning and recalling difficult-to-read colour combinations.


jenuhr, This is a candidate for the lamest excuse ever. The person could have taken the plates to TMR, explained the situation and they would have changed them over free of charge.


I recall that when personalised plates (the ability to select your own letters & numerals) were first introduced in NSW in the early 1980s, proceeds from their sale were directed to road accident research.
Of course, the personalised plates business was sold off long ago, and now I believe it is just a for-profit exercise.


If there are people who have so much spare money that they will pay, then why not relieve them of it? If it means that MY car registration costs me less then I’m all in favour of it.
However, on this topic, I would like to suggest that vehicle registration should be MUCH cheaper (a nominal amount to cover the cost of the record-keeping) and fuel taxes should be higher so that the owners of vehicles covering huge distances would be payng a much more commensurate proportion of the costs of providing the infrastructure that they use and people (like me) who only do about 2000 kms a year aren’t paying a disproportionate amount.


I recently had an incident where a couple of lads in a car were driving by & lobbing water bombs through my open windows. On the second occasion, I happened to hear the car pull up, thinking it was a friend arriving. Instead I saw the passenger lob another water bomb BUT I got their number plate as they drove off. The police were informed & had them shaking in their boots within 1/2 an hour of me reporting the incident. Imagine being in fear of opening your own homes windows. Clear identification of vehicles takes precedent over all other considerations.


Making a profit over-rides public safety. Clearly the marketing and finance teams won the day here not anyone that had an ounce of common sense.

The police in NSW, including the NSW Police Association have been in an up roar over this. Police indicate that there was minimal consultation in the decision making process about these plates before release, they just appeared on the streets.

I am reliably informed that there have been numerous incidents of vehicles with these unreadable plates being involved in offences (traffic and criminal) which are unable to be traced for the lack of clear identification. As another has commented, you can’t even narrow the vehicles down to a specific state or territory.

It does not relate to the number of vehicles needing to be registered as suggested by another writer, you only have to add another digit/letter to the series and like magic another million+ options are available.

Vehicle registration authorities need to drop the money making marketing spin and get back to what they were created to do.


The Germans have a great system in place. ONE central authority for all the states. A car registered in a major city will get a SINGLE prefix letter. ie. Munich will get " M " followed by a combination of letters and numbers. Frankfurt will get " F " etc. Smaller cities will have 2 letters as prefix and even smaller 3. Instantly you narrow the field down and possibly remember the prefix more easily. A search made simple with the public’s help.


Well said. I agree fully.

I was reminded of this stream yesterday when I saw a large black Porsche Cayenne 4WD apparently without a number plate.
It was only when I pulled up less than one car length behind it at lights that I saw it did indeed have a number plate. The background was black, with dark red letters and numbers which were almost indecipherable. In contrast, I could read the standard plates on vehicles several car lengths ahead in other lanes, but not this one. I tried taking a couple of pics while it was standing in front of me at the lights, but interestingly the licence plates could not be seen in the pics.

If I could not make out the licence plate stopped right behind it at lights, how could anyone identify this vehicle from a distance? Very unsafe in my opinion.


Well there could be some action on this matter. Apparently Queensland is having trouble with plates. Here’s a piece from the Brisbane Times “Almost one in 10 mobile speed camera fines cannot be issued, with illegible and obstructed number plates helping motorists dodge tickets.” (20 Sep 16) It seems public safety and identification don’t get any points from the authorities. Let’s see if losing dollars not being able to process fines brings about any action!