Number plates and labels

All vehicles registered in NSW must display official number plates. Some vehicles also must display warning labels.

Number plates

All vehicles registered in NSW must have official number plates.

The number plates must match the details shown on the vehicle's Certificate of Registration.

Standard NSW number plates have black characters on a yellow background. A range of special number plates are available to order, with different colours and number/letter combinations. See the myPlates website for more information.

Number plates remain the property of Roads and Maritime Services. Roads and Maritime has the authority to issue number plates, decline the issue or renewal of number plates and the authority to withdraw any number plates.

Display of number plates

Number plates must be permanently fitted to vehicles in an upright position and parallel to the vehicle’s axles, and not more than 1.3 metres above ground level.

Number plates must not be obscured, defaced or otherwise not legible.

The numbers on number plates must be clearly visible from any point that is up to 20 metres from the number plate, and within an arc of 45 degrees from the surface of the number plate above or to either side of the vehicle.

Number plate covers must be clear, clean, untinted and flat over the entire surface, and have no reflective or other characteristics that would prevent the successful operation of traffic offence detection devices.

For vehicles, one number plate must be fitted to the front of the vehicle and another to its rear. If different in size, the larger number plate must be fitted to its rear.

For motorcycles or trailers, one number plate must be fitted to its rear.

At least one number plate light must be fitted to the rear of vehicles. When on, number plate lights must illuminate number plates on the rear of vehicles with white light, so the numbers can be read at night 20 metres from the vehicle’s rear.

Number plate lights must not project white light to the rear of vehicles, and must not obscure the numbers on number plates.

Number plate lights must be wired to come on, and stay on, when the vehicle’s parking lights, headlights or tail lights are on.

It is an offence for drivers and registered operators of vehicles if its number plates are not fitted properly, obscured, defaced or otherwise not legible.

It is an offence for drivers and registered operators of vehicles if its rear number plate is obscured. You could be fined $425 for a light vehicle or $637 for a heavy vehicle and receive 3 demerit points. Courts can issue a fine up to $2,200.

Note: These requirements apply to auxiliary number plates, except being ‘permanently fitted to vehicles’. Auxiliary number plates can be displayed on the rack, a panel, or the item carried or towed.

Heavy vehicle number plates

National heavy vehicle plates are issued to heavy vehicles registered in NSW. 

The new national plate looks like the example below with black lettering on a white background and a blue 'NATIONAL HEAVY VEHICLE' sash across the bottom.

Example national heavy vehicle number plate - black characters on a white background with a blue sash across the bottom

Vehicles without number plates

Vehicles not displaying number plates may be unregistered, or the number plates may have been confiscated under the Vehicle Sanctions Scheme due to street racing and other ‘hoon’ offences.

Auxiliary number plates

Auxiliary number plates may be displayed when:

  • The rear number plate of the vehicle is obscured by a bicycle, personal mobility device or motorcycle on a rack
  • A trailer or caravan number plate is obscured by a bicycle or personal mobility device on a rack
  • The rear number plate of the vehicle is obscured by an implement, a vehicle exempt from registration or an unregistered vehicle being towed by the vehicle
  • A trailer number plate is obscured by a boat.

Auxiliary number plates cannot be used for any other purpose.

Auxiliary number plates must be displayed so that they are clearly visible from the rear of the vehicle. See Display of number plates.

It is an offence for drivers and registered operators of vehicles displaying auxiliary number plates outside the above requirements or without a required light.

Auxiliary number plates have black characters on a white background regardless of the colour of the vehicle number plates. They must have the same characters as the vehicle number plates.

Auxiliary number plates have the slogan ‘NSW – Auxiliary’.

You can order auxiliary number plates online at myPlates, or in person at a registry or service centre.

Need more information? See the Frequently asked questions.

Keeping number plates

If your vehicle's registration is cancelled for any reason, it’s an offence to keep the number plates.

If the registration is expired less than three months and you want to keep the number plates, you need to reserve them at a Motor Registry or Service NSW Centre.

If the registration has expired more than three months you need to take them to a Motor Registry or Service NSW Centre as they must be handed in for destruction and you will be issued with general issue number plates. You can then apply for the same content as your expired plates however there is no guarantee that it will be available as your ‘right to display’ that content was no longer valid three months from the date of expiry of your registration.

To reserve the number plates, take them, the Certificate of Registration and proof of your identity to any registry or service centre.

You’ll need to pay an annual reserve fee, plus any yearly fees that apply.

Exchange number plates

Plate exchanges are only allowed between two currently registered vehicles in the same name, between family members and other limited cases. For more information please enquire at a registry or service centre or call 13 77 88.

You'll need to pay a plate exchange fee, plus any applicable annual fee.

Number plate fees

Fees for number plates vary depending on whether they are standard or special number plates.

See Number plate fees for information on standard number plate fees and various plate administration fees.

For information about special number plates, see the myPlates website.

Reserving number plate content

You can reserve special number plate content without manufacturing the number plates until you are ready to place them on a vehicle.

No admin fees are payable for this product and the order fee for the special number plate style is delayed until the time of manufacture. When you are ready to order the number plates with your chosen content you can go to, choose your plate style and start the manufacturing process.

An annual fee is payable to reserve the special plate content of your choice and this will reserve your chosen special plate content for one year. You can keep the content in reserve for later use by paying the fee annually and the renewal can also be done on the myPlates website. Look for ‘Reserve Content’ on the myPlates website.

Warning labels for LPG and CNG fuelled vehicles

If you have a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuelled vehicle you’re legally required to display approved warning labels.

The reflective warning labels must be attached to the front and rear number plates.

This gives a visual warning to emergency services workers of the risk of a potential explosion.

Authorised Autogas installers will fix the warning labels to the number plates.

If the number plates are replaced you must make sure that the new number plates display the approved warning labels.

Warning label kits are available from authorised Autogas installers. See the Gas Energy Australia website for more information about suppliers and installers.

Safety labels for electric, hybrid and hydrogen vehicles

All electric, hybrid and hydrogen vehicles manufactured or modified after 1 January 2019 are now legally required to have a safety label fixed to the front and rear number plates. 

The registered operators of all affected vehicles will receive a letter with the labels and instructions on how to affix them. 

The labels will help Emergency Services staff and first responders in the event of a crash. Vehicles can be quickly identified as having an electric or hydrogen component, so that specific procedures can be followed to make the incident safer for all present. 

The new safety regulation comes into effect from 1 September 2019 and penalties may apply for failing to display the labels from 1 July 2020. There is an exemption to the light vehicles standards in place until this time. The penalty for not clearly displaying a sticker is a defect notice or fine. 

Which vehicles are affected?

Affected vehicles include all light vehicles, and vehicles over 4.5 tonnes which are:

  • electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered vehicles built after 1 January 2019, or
  • vehicles modified after 1 January 2019 to be electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered

What do vehicle owners have to do?

If your vehicle is affected, you will receive self-adhesive labels and instructions in the mail.

Find out more about electric vehicles and registration costs.

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