UK roads littered with ‘naughty’ number plates

More than a third of Brits (34%) say they would be put off buying a car if the number plate looked offensive.

New research from car buying and selling website has revealed that modern slang words such as ‘WTF’ and ‘FML’ are allowing certain rude number plates to sneak past DVLA checks.

The findings from Carfused, the one stop shop for all car buying needs, reveals that nearly a third of Brits (32%) claim to have noticed a number plate because it had something rude on it. And, despite the authorities’ best efforts to stop rude and offensive words making it onto the number plates of British cars, the car licensing authority might well be getting outsmarted by Britain’s road users when it comes to blacklisted number plates.

The DVLA recently released a list1 of prohibited letter-digit combinations (including anything alcohol related, religious or sexually crude), however many indecent phrases or acronyms are still making their way through the screening process seemingly unnoticed.

Seven in 10 (70%) motorists say they are aware what WTF (what the f***) stands for – but using the DVLA personalised registrations checker2, you can buy number plates with WTF featuring in the letter-digit combinations. Similarly, nearly a quarter (23%) of motorists say they know what FML (f*** my life) stands for – and you can buy DVLA approved number plates featuring this acronym.

Some seemingly innocent plates which feature potentially rude or cheeky hidden meanings spotted by motorists on UK roads include:





The findings also reveal that one in 10 (10%) say they have a personalised number plate, however of these, nearly one in 10 (9%) aren’t registered with the DVLA.

When it comes to the more vulgar phrases that appear on number plates, drivers are divided. More than a third (36%) say they think rude or offensive number plates should be banned from the road. However, a quarter (25%) say rude number plates make them laugh, whilst nearly one in 10 (8%) say more rude number plates should be allowed on the road to cheer people up.

Despite nearly three-quarters (71%) saying they think we have become desensitised to rude language and swear words, one in 10 (10%) say they have seen number plates so rude that they wondered how they even made it on to a car.

With so many drivers opting for a private number plate, it’s interesting to see just how much people willing to fork out for the privilege. The average cost of a private number plate is £387, with the most popular letter-digit combinations being a person’s initials. Incredibly, more than one in 20 (7%) said they paid more than £1,001 for their number plate.

The reasons for buying private number plates can vary. Nearly one in five (19%) say they got their plate to help them recognise their car in a busy car park whilst a similar number (18%) say it was to make their car stand out. Nearly a fifth (18%) say they bought their plate as something to sell for profit at a later date.

And it’s clear these number plates also have an impact on fellow motorists too. More than a fifth (21%) say they think people who have a private number plate drive arrogantly while more than one in 10 (12%) believe people with private number plates tend to speed.

While these number plates might seem a bit of fun, for some it’s making an impression when it comes to buying and selling the car. More than a third of Brits (34%) say they would be put off buying a car if the number plate looked offensive, whilst nearly a fifth (18%) say they wouldn’t buy a car with a private plate because you can’t be sure how old the car is.

There are instances of people being swayed by the number plate – nearly one in 10 (8%) say they would buy a car because the number plate had their initials in it, whilst one in 20 (5%) would even be willing to pay more for a car if it had a private number plate.

Kate Rose, spokesperson for, says: “Private number plates have always divided opinion – love them or hate them it’s important that if you do have a personalised number plate you understand what you’re letting yourself in for.”

“And it’s interesting to note that one in 10 drivers on British roads claim to have a private number plate – and that a number of these aren’t registered with the DVLA. These number plates can be quite costly – in the short term when actually buying the number plate and in the long run when selling the car.

“Anyone buying a number plate should consider the purchase carefully; whilst they might think it will add value to the car when it comes to selling it, it’s not surprising to see people can be put off buying a car with a private plate.”