Number plates in South Africa – what you can and can’t do

The Department of Transport recently confirmed it has embarked on a process to standardise the South African motor vehicle number plate.

The new standards for national number plates were published in the Government Gazette Draft Regulation Amendments on 28 January 2015.

The Department’s internal discussions and consultation process on the matter is ongoing, it said.

Until regulations for new national number plates are published, here’s what you can and cannot do with your current provincial number plates.

The information below is courtesy of the South African Number Plate Association (SANA), as per the requirements of the National Road Traffic Act No. 93 of 1996 (Regulations 2000) and the South African National Standard (SANS 1116) for number plates.

Number plate sizes

The SANS 1116 specification references three legal number plate sizes, as well as the correct size of the alphanumerics (letters and numbers):

  • 520mm x 113mm – must be embossed with 75mm (height) alphanumerics.
  • 250mm x  205mm – must be embossed with 75mm (height) alphanumerics.
  • 250mm x 165mm – must be embossed with 60mm (height) alphanumerics.

Note: 440mm x 120mm (75mm alphanumerics) number plates may not be used on vehicles registered for the first time on or after 1 January 2010.

Attachment of a number plate

The number plates of vehicles, which were registered for the first time on or after 1 January 2010, must be attached to the vehicle by 4mm rivets or 4mm one-way self-tapping screws.

Plates can be attached directly to the vehicle or to a holding bracket (number plate carrier), which must comply with the requirements of SANS 973 and be approved by the National Department of Transport.

Motorists may have two different size number plates on a vehicle if required – the Nissan Tiida’s rear number plate aperture, for example, cannot accommodate a 520mm x 113mm or a 250mm x 205mm number plate.

The 250mm x 165mm size number plate may then be used with the permission of the relevant provincial MEC.

However, the National Road Traffic Act is silent on the usage of this size number plate on the vehicle’s front.

“The intention is thus clear that 60mm alphanumerics cannot be used in the front and the user doesn’t have the option to obtain permission,” said SANA.

Number plates for motor vehicles and SUVs may not be affixed higher than 1.5 metres from ground level.

Front number plates may be attached to the side of the front bumper if the vehicle design cannot accommodate a number plate in the middle.

Background graphics

The graphic background design of a provincial number plate is determined by the MEC of the relevant province.

Below are examples of the provincial plates used.

Number plates SA


A number plate must bear a certification mark, and an SABS sticker is placed underneath the provincial logo of an embossed plate.


Markings and number plate font

A number plate must bear a certification mark, along with the SABS sticker. The mark contains:

  • Name or trademark of the supplier.
  • Batch number of the supplier.

Plate marking

Only the GE font, specifically designed for the South African number plate industry, may be used for number plates. Below are examples of illegal number plate fonts.

Illegal number plates

Personalised number plates

Zurika Louw, CEO at SANA, also provided information on personalised number plates – as detailed below.

What’s allowed

Vulgar language is not allowed and blatantly vulgar or offensive numbers will not be allocated.

Only alphanumerics are allowed and symbols (example: $, @) are illegal.

The public may submit complaints to their local metro police if they feel a personalised number plate is offensive.


The price of a personalised plate varies between R1,000 and R6,000.

“A single alphanumeric will cost more than the maximum of seven alphanumerics.”


A personalised number plate is the owner’s property and is transferable to a new vehicle.

A personalised number plate can also be transferred to a beneficiary in the event of the death of the original user.

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Number plates in South Africa – what you can and can’t do