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Vehicle registration plate

A vehicle registration plate is a metal or plastic plate attached to a motor vehicle or trailer for official identification purposes. The registration identifier is a numeric or alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies the vehicle within the issuing region's database. In some countries, the identifier is unique within the entire country. In others, it is unique within each state or province. There is also variation on whether the identifier is associated with a vehicle or a person. Depending on the country or region of issue, it may also be referred to as a license plate, licence plate, number plate, vehicle tag, license tag, or simply tag.


Legal requirements

Some jurisdictions license non-traditional vehicles such as golf carts

Most governments require a registration plate to be attached to both the front and rear of a vehicle, although certain jurisdictions or vehicle types, such as motorcycles, only require one plate, which is usually attached to the rear. National databases relate this number to other information describing the vehicle, such as the make, model, color, year of manufacture, engine size, type of fuel used and mileage recorded during the vehicles annual (or bi-annual) road worthiness test, Vehicle identification (Chassis) Number and the name and address of the vehicle's registered owner or keeper.

In some jurisdictions, these registration plates will be permanently assigned to that particular vehicle for its lifetime. Some countries permit the re-registration of the vehicle with "personal" ("vanity" or "Cherished Mark") plates. When the vehicle is destroyed or exported to a different country it will require re-registering in the country of import. China requires the re-registration of any vehicle that crosses its borders from another country, such as overland holiday tourist visits, regardless of the amount of time it is due to remain there; this has to be arranged with prior approval.

In others, such as U.S. states, where they are known as license plates, they require periodic changing[citation needed]. For cost-saving purposes, however, the tendency for the past three decades has been to simply replace a small decal on the plate's surface, or to use a decal on the windshield to indicate the current expiration date of the registration. Additionally, some jurisdictions follow a "plate-to-owner" policy, meaning that when a vehicle is sold, the seller removes the current plate(s) from the vehicle. Buyers must either obtain new plates from their jurisdiction of residence or attach plates that they already hold from that jurisdiction, as well as formally registering their vehicles, under the buyer's name and the plate number, with the appropriate authorities. A person who sells a car and then purchases a new one can apply to have the old plates put onto this car. One who sells a car and does not buy a new one may, depending on the local laws involved, have to turn the old plates in or destroy them, or may simply be permitted to keep them. Other states keep the plate with the vehicle when ownership passes.

Plates usually are either directly fixed to a vehicle or located in a plate frame which is itself fixed to the vehicle. Sometimes the plate frames contain advertisements inserted by the vehicle service centre or the dealership from which the vehicle was purchased. Vehicle owners can also purchase customised and speciality frames to replace the original frames. In some U.S. states, license plate frames are illegal. Plates are designed to conform to certain standards of clarity with regards to being read by the human eye in day or at night, or by electronic equipment. Some drivers purchase clear, smoke-colored or tinted covers that go over the license plate, usually to prevent such electronic equipment from scanning the license plate. Although perhaps useful to those avoiding detection from police, these covers are not legal in the entire United States and their use is discouraged in other countries. The British system of traffic and DVLA number recognition system cameras incorporate filter systems that make such avoidance attempt unworkable, usually with infra-red filters.

Some countries issue registration plates by provincial, territorial, or state governments rather than by National Government.

A licence plate from another state can be worn on a verhicle if the jurisdiction and local laws permits it. If the local laws only assign a rear plate, it is possible to have the licence plate of another state, doing so will not result in something illegal.

Also, many jurisdictions have reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions, allowing license plates from other jurisdictions to be used in their jurisdiction. For example, if a vehicle is registered in any U.S. state, that vehicle may be driven into any other U.S. state without re-registering, unless the owner is moving there. Some jurisdictions, like Texas, will recognize any other jurisdiction's license plate if that jurisdiction recognizes Texas' license plates.


It has been suggested that History of US and Canadian license platesbe mergedinto this article or section. (Discuss)

License plates have been around almost as long as automobiles, appearing in the earliest period of the transition from the horse, 1890 to 1910. The Netherlands were the first to introduce a national licence plate, first called a "driving permit", in 1898. The first licences were simply plates with a number, starting at 1. By August 8th of 1899 the counter was at 168. When the Dutch chose a different way to number the plates on January 15th 1906 the last issued plate was 2065.

In the U.S., where each state issues plates, New York has required plates since 1901. At first, plates were not government issued in most American jurisdictions and motorists were obliged to make their own. Massachusetts and West Virginia were the first states to issue plates, in 1903. The earliest plates were made out of porcelain baked onto iron, or simple ceramic with no backing, which made them extremely fragile and impractical. Few examples of these earliest plates survive. Later experimental materials include cardboard, leather, plastic and during wartime shortages copper and pressed soybeans.

Earlier plates varied in size and shape from one jurisdiction to the next, such that if one moved, new holes would be needed drilled into the bumper to support the new plate. Standardization of plates came in 1957, when automobile manufacturers came to agreement with governments and international standards organizations. While peculiar local variants still exist, there are three basic standards worldwide.

  • 12 by 6 inches (300 mm by 150 mm) - Used in the majority of the Americas.
  • 20.5 by 4.5 inches (520 mm by either 110 or 120 mm) - Used in the bulk of the European countries and many of their former overseas territories.
  • 14.5 by 5.3 inches (372 mm by 135 mm) - Used in Australia and some other Pacific Rim countries, about halfway between the dimensions of the other two standards, longer than Western Hemisphere plates but taller than European ones.

Vehicle registration plates by country


Standard Victorian plate Victorian Special issue "Europlate" (Illustration)
Main article: Australian vehicle number plates

In Australia, licence plates, usually known as number plates, are normally issued by the State or Territory government; although some are issued by the Commonwealth government. Plates are associated with a vehicle and generally last for its life, though as they become unreadable (or for other reasons) they may be recalled or replaced with newer ones. New plates are also issued when the vehicle is registered in another state, or if the owner requests them (though this depends on state laws).

Australian number plates were originally issued with white characters on black plates, with each state and territory being allocated a range of plates inside the larger range AAA000 to ZZZ999. Queensland, for example, was initially given OAA000 to QZZ999. This system worked in theory but was soon altered in practice and by 1980 had been almost completely abandoned, with some states having run out of combinations. Tasmania, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory never adopted the system, but the Australian Capital Territory held out to the late 1990s.

The states then chose their own systems. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia all retained xxx-nnn, but each started over from AAA-000. Queensland reversed the arrangement to nnn-xxx. Western Australia took nxx-nnn, and the ACT kept the Y plate range but substituted the last digit for a letter, giving Yxx-nnx. Current arrangements are listed below.

All current plates are manufactured to uniform dimensions and are made of pressed and painted metal, except for certain special series plates; the form of which differs by state and design.

Current standard Australian number plate formats (As at 15/01/2008)
Note: 'x' represents a sequential letter, 'n' represents a sequential number. This list excludes special issue or personalised plate designs.

  • Australian Capital Territory: Blue text on white background, with "ACT" above and "CANBERRA - THE NATION'S CAPITAL" below.
    Code format: Yxx-nnx
  • New South Wales: Black text on yellow background, with "NEW SOUTH WALES" below the plate code. Also in circulation are plates showing "NEW SOUTH WALES - THE FIRST STATE" and "NEW SOUTH WALES - THE PREMIER STATE" with code xxx-nnn, from 1980s.
    Code format: xx-nn-xx.
  • Victoria': Blue on white background, with "VICTORIA - THE PLACE TO BE" under the plate code. Older plates show "VICTORIA - ON THE MOVE", or "VICTORIA - THE GARDEN STATE" in green on white.
    Code format: xxx-nnn.
  • Queensland: Maroon text on white background, with "QUEENSLAND - SUNSHINE STATE" or "QUEENSLAND - THE SMART STATE" under the plate code.
    Code format: nnn-xxx
  • South Australia: Black on white with "SA - THE FESTIVAL STATE" under code.
    Code format: xxx-nnn or xx-nnnx.
  • Western Australia: , Blue on white with WESTERN AUSTRALIA on blue band at top of plate. Older plates black on yellow with format nxx-nnn.
    Code format: nxxx-nnn.
  • Tasmania: Green on white with "TASMANIA - YOUR NATURAL STATE" at bottom and thylacine silhouette behind. Older plates may show "TASMANIA - HOLIDAY ISLE".
    Code format: xx-nnn or xx-nnnn.
  • Northern Territory: Orange text on white background with "NT - OUTBACK AUSTRALIA" over code.
    Code format: nnn-nnn.

To show that a vehicle is registered in Australia, a sticker must be displayed in the lower left corner of either the rear left window or windscreen. This sticker is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle on payment of the next year's registration fee, and shows the expiry date of the registration. They are colour coded for easy recognition of the year of expiry. The sticker shows the licence plate number, Vehicle Identification Number, Make, Model, and colour of the vehicle, along with other such information. This acts as an anti-theft device, because transplanting the licence plates from one car to another will be in contrast to the details on the sticker. The Western Australia registration sticker only shows the month and year of expiry.


Normal Vehicles has number plates starting with the letter B, followed by three digits, followed by three letters. The digits and letters are assigned by a registar. The three letters will never include the letter Q. These number plates have either a white or yellow reflective background with black lettering.

Government Vehicles all a have the prefix "BX", except defense force vehicles which have the prefix "BDF" - these number plates have a white reflective background with red lettering.

Diplomatic vehicles' number plates starts with two digits, two letters (CD, CC or CT) and another three digits. These digits are allocated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[1]


Main article: Brazilian vehicle number plates

Brazil adopted its current system in 1990, which uses the form ABC 1234, with a dot between letters and numbers. A combination given to one vehicle cannot be transferred to another vehicle. Above the combination there is a metallic band with the state abbreviation (SP = São Paulo, RJ = Rio de Janeiro, PR = Paraná, AM = Amazonas, etc.) and the name of the municipality. This band can be changed by breaking the seal (plastic or lead-made).

European Union

Main article: European vehicle registration plates

In the European Union, white or yellow number plates of a common format and size are issued throughout (albeit still optional in some member states). Nevertheless, some individual member states still use differing non-EU formats - Belgium, for example, still permits vehicles to display the older small white number plates with red lettering. Italy still permits smaller plates to be attached to the front of a vehicle, while the rear plate complies to the usual EU format. The common design consists of a blue strip on the left of the plate, which has the EU motif (12 yellow stars), along with the country code of the member state in which the vehicle was registered.

This 'common design' is claimed to be a registered design - number 2053070 - registered at the UK Patent office by David and Nansi Mottram in 1995 [1]. However, Ireland introduced this style of vehicle registration plate on 1st Jan 1991 under regulation S.I. No. 287/1990, [2]. Portugal introduced plates with the common design in 1992, and Germany introduced plates with the common design in January 1994 [3], [4], No successful challenge has been launched upon the registered design to date.

Lettering on the plate must be black on a white or yellow reflective background. With this EU format, vehicles are no longer required to carry an international code plate or sticker for travelling between member states. The non-EU state of Switzerland also recognises the blue strip instead of the traditional white oval with the country code in black.

Germany has selected a typeface which is called fälschungserschwerende Schrift (abbr.: FE-Schrift), meaning "falsification-hindering script". It is designed so that, for example, the O cannot be adjusted to look like a Q, or vice versa; nor can the P be painted to resemble an R, amongst other changes. This typeface can more easily be read by radar or visual license-plate reading machines, but can be harder to read with the naked eye, especially when the maximum allowed number of 8 characters in "Engschrift" (narrower script used when available space is limited) are printed on the plate.

Car registration plates from France as observed 2004.

current car registration plate from Germany.

British number plates (1982 – 2001 system), as observed in 2004. The bottom plate has no EU ring as it is not compulsory in the UK.

Licence plate from Sweden

Manx (not in the EU) car registration plate

Polish plates. New with EU stars and old issued shortly before EU membership.

Lithuanian plate issued shortly before EU membership. The same format is still used, except with the EU logo instead of the country flag.

Danish number plate with the current style.

Czech registration plate. - since 2004

Number plate of a Belgian car

Dutch car number plate

A plate from Andorra.

Fälschungserschwerende Schrift, used on German plates to hinder falsification. Note that normally similar glyphs (e.g. O and Q) are distinct in shape.

The newest Slovak plate.

A standard Finnish license plate

Car registration rear plate of Jersey (British, not in the EU)


Indian license plate
Main article: Indian licence plates

Two types of licence plates are used in India. For commercial vehicles, the plate has a yellow background and black numbering. For private vehicles a white background with black numbering is used. The scheme comprises a two letter identification for the state in which the vehicle is registered. It is followed by a two number code to identify the district. In the union territories and the erstwhile union territory of Delhi, the district code is omitted.

This is often followed by a series code, eg. 14C is the fourteenth series for private cars and 2M is the second series for motorbikes. Recently many states have been adapting the dual letter series code system, for example car series' are CA, CB, CC; motorbike series' are MA, MB and so on. Finally a four-digit number is used to uniquely identify the vehicle. Most states however still use the standard series code , denoted by a single letter of the alphabet. When the alphabet reaches Z, the length of the prefix is increased to 2. So after TN-01 9999, the next number is TN-01 A 0001 and after TN-01 Z 9999 it is TN-01 AA 0001 and so on..

eg: PB 10 AM 4737, is a vehicle registered in Ludhiana, Punjab State. RJ 27 14M 2463, is a vehicle registered in Udaipur, Rajasthan State. MH 01 5678 , is a vehicle registered in Bombay, Maharashtra State. KA 05 EH 1254, is a vehicle registered in Bangalore, Karnataka State.


Main article: Indonesian car number plates

Current Indonesian license plates share the legacy of the Dutch colonial era. They do not reflect the current regional divisions of the country into provinces, but rather maintain the old system of Dutch Karesidenan regions or regencies. Their prefixes are therefore based on this system. Basically there are four types of plates are used in Indonesia which consists of a combination of alphabet and numbers. For commercial vehicles, the plate has a yellow background and black numbering. For private vehicles, a black background with white letters. For government vehicles, the plates are red with white fonts. Dealer plates are white with red letters. Besides these normal plates there are also military plates for Army, Navy, Air Force, and also the Police. While diplomatic corps get special white plates and black numbering with "CD" prefix. The normal scheme comprises a one or two letters identification for the regencies, followed by an up to four digit number to uniquely identify the vehicle, and the last one or two letters are the serial code or district identification. The expiry date of the licence is embossed along the bottom of the plate.


  • B 1234 CD, is a vehicle registered in Jakarta (formerly Batavia) capital area, Tangerang District.
  • L 123 MN, is a vehicle registered in Surabaya, provincial capital of East Java (Jawa Timur).
  • KT 8910 T, is a vehicle registered in East Kalimantan Province, Tarakan municipality, on Borneo island.

All of the plates usually have their expiration dates shown on a bar above or below the serial numbers depicting the expired month and the year; or for temporary plates, the expiration date and month.


Japanese License Plate (Schematic illustration). This sample license plate is registered to Tama.
Main article: Japanese license plates

Japanese vehicle registration plates fall into two classes: Prefectural, used nationwide, and Municipal. Municipal registration is typically applicable to motor vehicles that will not leave the area, such as light motorcycles.

In the prefectural system, the top line names the office at which the vehicle is registered, and includes a numeric code that indicates the class of vehicle. The bottom contains one serial letter (typically a kana), and up to four digits. The classes of registration plate are divided by vehicle type and engine size. For private vehicles less than 660 cc, registration plates have black text on a yellow background. Above 660 cc, a white plate with green text is used. For commercial, non-private vehicles, the colours of the numberplate are inverted. An official seal is applied over one (typically the left) screw, preventing the plate being removed and applied to another car.

Municipal registration plates in Japan may vary in color and design.


Main article: Vehicle registration plates of Malaysia

Malaysian vehicle license plates are the license plates displayed on all motorized road vehicles in Malaysia, as required by law. The issue of license plates is regulated and administered by the Malaysian Road Transport Department.

In standard regulation, all vehicle license plates in Malaysia, other than those issued to diplomats, dealers and taxis, have white characters on a black background, regardless of the vehicle type. All vehicles must also display two of the same license plates numbers of the same colours at the front and rear of the vehicles

The most common form of Malaysian license plates, in use since the introduction of motorised vehicles in the country's British colonial era, typically begin with one or more letters (the first letter(s) serving as a vehicle or location prefix) followed by up to four numerical digits with no leading zeros. Thus, the configuration of a common Malaysian number plate may be in the form of ABC 1234, as depicted with two examples on the right. The sequence of licensed numbers issued begins with x 1 ("x" being the prefixes of the vehicle's registered location and vehicle type) to x 9999, followed by xA 1 to xY 9999, xAA 1 to xAY 9999, xBA 1 to xBY 9999, and so on (letters I, O and Z are not used to avoid ambiguity with numbers or other forms of local license plates).


Each Mexican state issues license plates of a different design. Most states change designs more or less every third year, with each state on its own plate replacement cycle. Every year Mexicans pay the "tenencia" or "revalidación de placas." A set of Mexican plates includes one pair of plates, a windshield sticker, and in a few states a plate sticker. In 2001 the size of the plate number was reduced in order to accommodate the addition of the state number, legend indicating the position of the plate on the vehicle ("delantera" (front) or "trasera" (rear)), and additional graphics.

Mexican plates come in several different classification: Private, Private Fronteriza, Public, Public Frontera, Servicio Publico Federal, Inspeccion Fiscal y Aduanera, Armada de Mexico, and Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores. The Fronteriza plates were introduced in 1972 and are available in the Mexico-USA border zone. This zone is formed by the Baja California and Baja California Sur states, as well as parts of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. While the state of Nuevo León shares a 15 km border with the U.S., it does not have any cities within the border zone.

Plate formats:

Mexican license plate, passenger car in Chiapas state. European-styled Mexican license plates have become popular on newer car models in the Baja California state.


  • Antique Automobile: AA-12 (AA-123 in Distrito Federal)
  • Bus: 1-AAA-23
  • Dealer: 1-AA-234
  • Handicapped: 123-AA
  • Motorcycle: A123A (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Estado de Mexico, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Zacatecas), A 123 A (Guanajuato), AAA12 - when overflows A123A allocation? (Durango, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Quintana Roo, Yucatan), AAA 12 (Queretaro), or 1234 A (D.F.)
  • Passenger: AAA-12-34 (123-AAA in D.F.)
  • RV: 1-AA-2345
  • Trailer: 1-AA-2345
  • Truck: AA-12-345 (12-34-AA in D.F.)


  • Bus: 123-456-A (123-45-67 in D.F., where '123' denotes the bus route number; 123-AA-456 in Estado de Mexico-D.F. joint Transporte Metropolitano issues, where 'AA' denotes the municipality)
  • RV: A-123-456
  • Taxi: 12-34-AAA (L-12345 for Taxis Libres and S-12345 for Taxis de Sitio in D.F.)
  • Truck: 1-AAA-234

Private border zone:

  • Antique Automobile: AA-12
  • Bus: ZAA-1234
  • Handicapped: 123-AA
  • Passenger: 123-ABC-4 (BAA-00-00 in Baja California)
  • Truck: ZAA-1234 (BA-12345 in B.C.)

Public border zone:

  • Bus: 1234-Z AA
  • Taxi: 1234-ZAA
  • Truck: 1234-ZAA

Servicio Público Federal (SPF):

  • Carga (purple plate): 123-AA-4
  • Pasaje (orange plate): 123-AA-4
  • Turismo (green plate): 123-AA-4
  • Arrastre Fronterizo (tan plate): 123-AA-4
  • Traslado (yellow/orange plate): 1234-AA
  • Arrendamiento (blue plate)
  • Discapacitados (burgundy plate)
  • S.R.E. (blue plate with Aztec symbol)
  • I.F.A. (white w/ dark blue letters)

Seguridad Publica (Local, State or Federal Police and related)

  • Any Vehicle: 01-234 (all patrol vehicles, and official-use vehicles from the Judicial Branch of the Mexican Government)

North America

Washington D.C. Plate
Main article: U.S. license plates
Main article: Canadian license plates

In the United States and Canada, license plates are issued by each state or provincial government. In the United States, many Native American tribal governments issue plates for their members, while some states provide special issues for tribal members. The federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. Within each jurisdiction, there may also be special plates for groups such as firefighters or military veterans, and for state, municipality, or province-owned vehicles.

The appearance of plates is frequently chosen to contain symbols, colors, or slogans associated with the issuing jurisdiction. Some of these are intended to promote the region, such as Nova Scotia's license plate, which reads "Canada's Ocean Playground". A few make political statements; for example, most plates issued in Washington, D.C. include the phrase "Taxation without representation" to highlight D.C.'s lack of a voting representative in the United States Congress. More recently, some states have also started to put a web address pertaining to the state, whether it would be with the state itself (such as Indiana with or, in Pennsylvania's case,, that state's tourism site. In some states (Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and some versions in Florida), the issuing county is listed at the bottom, while Kansas does so with a letter-coded registration sticker; Utah did so until 2003. Idaho, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, Wyoming, some Nebraska and Oklahoma plates designate the county by number code (the latter with a letter) either in the plate number or registration sticker.

Most states use plates onto which the letters and numbers are embossed so that they are slightly raised above its surface. Several — Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia — have moved to entirely digitally produced flat license plates. Several other U.S. states now use a color thermal transfer production process that produces a flat license plate for only short-run plates such as personalized license plates and special interest plates. No flat plates have yet been introduced in Canada.

The numbering system of license plates also varies among the jurisdictions. Some states issue a motorist, a serial that stays with that person as long as they live in that state, while other states periodically issue new serials and completely rotate out any old ones. Several states do not regularly use certain letters — most commonly the letters I, O, and/or Q — in their plates, except on vanity plates, so as not to confuse observers with the numbers one and zero.

When a person moves from one state or province to another, they are normally required to obtain new license plates issued by the new place of residence. Some U.S. states will even require a person to obtain new plates if they accept employment in that state, unless they can show that they return to another state to live on a regular basis. The most prominent exceptions to this policy are active duty military service members, who legally do not change residence when they move to a new posting. Federal law specifically allows them to choose to either retain the state vehicle registration of their original residence or change registration to their state of assignment.

In many states and provinces, license plates are made by prison inmates [5] [6]. In 1956, all North American passenger vehicle licence plates, except for French-controlled St. Pierre and Miquelon and the Canadian Northwest Territories and Nunavut, were standardized at a size of 6 in x 12 in (152.40 mm x 304.80 mm), although a smaller size is used for certain vehicle classes, such as motorcycles, and for the state of Delaware's historic alternate black and white plates, which are 5.25 in x 9.5 in. The Canadian territories' plates are shaped like a polar bear [7]


Main article: Pakistani licence plates

Eight types of licence plates are used in Pakistan. Each province and territory issues its own number plate; the federal government issues number plates for foreign diplomats and vehicles owned by the military, police and federal departments (red for foreign diplomats and green for the federal government.) Sindh's number plates are yellow with black letters and numbers for private vehicles and Black number plates with white letters for commercial vehicles; Islamabad, NWFP, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan and Northern Areas have white number plates with black letters and numbers. The number plates also have the province or territory's name at the bottom. In Punjab however, number plates can be of any colour the vehicle owner chooses, but the first 2 letters represent the city the vehicle is registered in.

From January, 1 2007 Punjab has started issuing official number plates for all cars registered in Punjab. Number plates are of Green and White colour. The green part is the same all over Punjab and has a sign and 'Punjab' written on it, while the white part has the number of the vehicle.

For example:

All number plates use the Latin alphabet.

People's Republic of China

Main article: Licence plates of the People's Republic of China
Blue PRC licence plates of the 1992 standard (August 2004 image)

The People's Republic of China issues vehicles licence plates at its Vehicle Management Offices, under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security.

The current plates are of the 1992 standard, which consist of the one-character provincial abbreviation, a letter of the Latin alphabet corresponding to a certain city in the province, and five numbers or letters of the alphabet (e.g. 京A-12345, for a vehicle in Beijing or 粤B-12345 for a vehicle from Shenzhen in Guangdong province). The numbers are produced at random, and are computer-generated at the issuing office. (A previous licence plate system, with a green background and the full name of the province in Chinese characters, actually had a sequential numbering order, and the numbering system was eventually beset with corruption).

Yellow plates are issued for large vehicles of Chinese nationality. Blue plates, the most common sort, are issued for vehicles of Chinese nationality, which are small or compact in size. Black plates are issued for vehicles belonging to foreigners and persons from Hong Kong and Macau. Please note this is the license plates for the car originated from Hong Kong or Macau and traveling in mainland China, which means the car has two sets of license plates, this one for use in mainland China, while the other one is the original Hong Kong/Macau license, which is totally different from this numbering system and colors. And it is not easy to get two licenses on the car unless the owner has significant investment in mainland China. For other Hong Kong / Macau cars which have just one license, they can only operate in Hong Kong or Macau respectively. The mainland Chinese plates of these cars follow the pattern of the provincial character for Guangdong (粤), the Latin letter "Z", 4 letters and/or numbers, ending in the abbreviated character for the territory (e.g. 粤Z-AE54港 for Hong Kong) (Black license plates are handed to vehicles of any size, as long as they are from one of the special administrative regions.)

Hong Kong license plates

Hong Kong local license plates follow British system of coloring, with front white and rear yellow plates. Numbering system is two letters and (up to) four digits, e.g. AB1234. License numbers start from "AM" are government cars. The front white and rear yellow background is a reflective material comply to BS AU145a standard.

In addition, Hong Kong started to have personalize license plates from 2006, with up to 8 selectable letters or numbers.

Macau license plates

Macau local license plates follow the Portuguese pre-1992 system of color and sequence. Plates are black background with white numbers. Numbering system starts from M, and then one letter, and then 4 numbers, and separated by "-", e.g. MA-12-34. Earlier numbers will only have M instead of MA or MB or MC.... etc...

Russian Federation

Russian registration plate, as observed in 2004

There are six types of Russian registration plates.

Main article: Russian car number plates
  1. Civil plates - civil plates have white background with black numbers. The templates for number is "@###@@ | RR" where @ is one of the "ABCEHKMOPTXУ" letters (Cyrillic letters that can be recognized by those familiar with the Latin alphabet, but actually correspond to AVSENKMORTHU), # is a digit and RR is a region number (2 or 3 digits).
  2. Government plates - government plates have white background with black numbers. The templates for number is "@###@@ | FL" wher FL is a tricolor flag of Russia (canceled in 2007).
  3. Police plates - blue background and white characters.
  4. Diplomatic plates - red background and white characters.
  5. Military plates - black background and white characters.
  6. Taxi plates - yellow background and black characters (canceled).


The license plates have three letters (?) and three or four numbers (#) ranging from 000 to 999 or 9999: ???-### or ???-####

The first letter is associated with the province name (see table below). The second letter, also called "key letter", identifies the type of license plate.

Province Letter Province Letter Province Letter Azuay A Galápagos W Pastaza S Bolivar B Guayas G Pichincha P Cañar U Imbabura I Francisco de Orellana Q Carchi C Loja L Sucumbíos K Cotopaxi X Los Ríos R Tungurahua T Chimborazo H Manabí M Zamora Chinchipe Z El Oro O Morona Santiago V Santa Elena Y Esmeraldas E Napo N Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas J

The background color of the license plate varies according the key letter and identifies the type of service of the vehicle.

  • If the key letter is A, Z or Q, the background color is orange and the vehicle is a bus or a taxi.
  • If the key letter is E, the background color is gold and the vehicle is property of the government.
  • If the key letter is M, the background color is light green and the vehicle is property of a municipality.
  • If the key letter is W, the background color is white-silver and the vehicle is property of the police.

The rest of letters are for particular vehicles. Their background color is white-silver.

Vanity and specialty plates

Main article: Vanity plate
An example of a vanity license plate from Pennsylvania, when the state's official website was on the plate and not the tourism site 343 is the number of New York City Fire Department members killed on September 11, 2001.

In some countries, people can pay extra and get "vanity plates": licence plates with a custom number (character set). For example, a vanity license plate might read "MY TOY". Generally vanity plates are not allowed to have profane, offensive or obscene messages on them, and of course they must also be unique. (DMVs of states have sometimes received complaints of offensive vanity plates. [8]) Some U.S. states allow amateur radio operators to use their callsign for a lower fee than a regular vanity plate.[2]

Louisiana - Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty license plate.

In the U.S., Canada and Australia, vehicle owners may also pay extra for specialty plates: with these, the sequence of letters and numbers is chosen by the licensing agency – as with regular plates – but the owners select a plate design that is different from the normal license plate. Fees for specialty plates are usually channeled to a specific charity or organization. For example, California has issued the "Yosemite plate" and "whale tail plate," both aimed at conservation efforts in the respective domains. Some jurisdictions allow for these special plates to also be vanity plates, usually for an additional fee on top of the cost of the plate.

In some Australian states, it is possible to purchase "personalised plates", where an individual can choose the colour, design, and sometimes even the shape and size of the plate, as well as the displayed text. For example, the government of the state of Queensland offers a wide range of possibilities for customisation.[3] Another style of plate that is common in some states of Australia is "Euro Plates", which are the same size as European plates (rather than the narrower taller Australian plates) to fit on the numberplate holders in European cars. A backlash against these so called "wanker number plates" was highlighted by the Australian TV show The Chaser.[4]

The "Personal Plate" industry in the United Kingdom is huge, with a large number of private dealers acting as agents for DVLA issues as well as holding their own or communal stock. The official term for what is often incorrectly called a "personal", "personalised" or "private" plate is a "cherished mark", as the alphanumeric code on the plate is the "index mark" — that is, the "mark" assigned to the vehicle on the central registry or "index". UK registrations or indexes cannot be owned outright by individuals, even though they may appear to have been purchased. They are issued by Government agencies and can be recalled or cancelled at any time if misuse is suspected.

The main difference regarding "personal plates" between the UK and many other countries, is that drivers are not able to make, or request, their own. What is being traded is coincidences in the existing numbering system where the numbers and letters appear to spell something. For example, M15 ERY looks like MISERY or J4 MES looks similar to JAMES. Often, illegal fonts, digit-spacings or coloured screw heads are used to enhance the appearance of the "word". UK legislation can require a fine of up to £1000 per offence in the case of an illegally-altered registration index mark.

The current world record for a personal plate sale, held in the UK, is £330,000 for M 1, sold at auction in Goodwood on 7 June 2006 - News article.The buyer of the number plate is rumoured to have bought the plate for his six-year-old son. Some personal plates are listed on dealers' books for as much as £500,000 — a target that is expected to be reached before long, and should A 1 ever come up for sale, it is widely expected to sell for as much as £1 million.

The world record for the most expensive license plate is USD 6.8 million (25,200,000 AED). The license plate "5" was bought at an auction in Abu Dhabi conducted by Emirates Auction on May 12 2007. Gulf news

Temporary licence plates

Almost every state, province, district and territory issues temporary licence plates made of security paper for drivers waiting for plates in the mail, or other registration issues. The common length of time to have temporary plates is 30 days, although Ontario offers 10 day permits, and some U.S. states allow temporary tags to be effective for up to 90 days. Temporary licence plates are usually taped to the inside of the rear windshield, while some states require it to be in the front windshield. Expiration dates are usually hand written by DMV employees or dealership sales personnel, but due to easy alteration of hand written dates, some states now digitally print the date on the tag. If a driver continues to drive after the permit expires the vehicle can face impoundment as an unplated vehicle.

Novelty licence plates

There also exist novelty license plates often sold in gift or novelty shops. Similar to vanity plates, these novelties are printed with an individual's name, but unlike vanity plates they are not intended for legal identification of an automobile. They can be displayed in the rear window, for example, or on the front of vehicles registered in jurisdictions that only require a valid plate on the rear of the vehicle.

Novelty license plates are usually installed by motorists or automobile dealerships. While automobile dealerships may install such plates for promoting their business, motorists may install novelty license plates to express their brand preference or an affiliation with a group, state, country, sports/sport team, hobby, art, custom creation, etc. In the United States, 19 states do not require an official front license plate, these states being Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia; U.S. territories Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam also do not require an official front license plate. In Nevada, front plates are optional if the vehicle was not designed for a front plate and the manufacturer did not provide an add-on bracket or other means of displaying the front plate. [9] Antique auto collectors may use novelty replicas of period license plates to give their show cars a dated look, or import vehicle owners may use a novelty replica of a foreign plate to give it a foreign image. Some states allow "Year of Manufacture" registrations where an original, official plate expiring on the model year of an antique car is revalidated.

International codes

Main article: List of international license plate codes

On the international level the licence plates of different countries are distinguished by a supplementary licence plate country code. This country designator is displayed in bold block uppercase on a small white oval plate or sticker on the rear of the vehicle near the number plate.

The allocation of codes is maintained by the United Nations as the Distinguishing Signs of Vehicles in International Traffic, being authorized by the UN's Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) and Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968). Many, but far from all, vehicle codes created since the adoption of ISO 3166 coincide with either the ISO two or three letter codes.

Imitation international codes

In Canada and the United States, where the international oval is not used on vehicles from neighbouring countries (aside from Canadian cars bearing CDN ovals travelling into the US), putting one on a car is purely a matter of personal discretion. This has given rise to a tourist-driven industry of imitation international code stickers. For example, the island of Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts has MV, while the Outer Banks region of North Carolina uses OBX. Long Beach Island, NJ uses "LBI," with the letter "I" substituted with an illustration of the island's lighthouse. The city of Key West, Florida, uses KW as part of its Conch Republic 'rebellion' from the U.S. Stickers of this sort are usually visibly different from any real international code sticker, but some places sell what could appear to be real stickers, touting that the abbreviation refers to their venue.

In the United Kingdom imitation international codes are sometimes seen for the various parts of the country. For example, in Scotland oval stickers with "Ecosse" or "Alba" (Scotland in French and Gaelic respectively) are occasionally seen on cars.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: License plate

Car number plates by country

External links


  1. ^ Road Transport (Permits) Act, CHAPTER 69:03
  2. ^ Oregon DMV Regular-Issue License Plates
  3. ^ Personalised Plates Queensland
  4. ^ Wanker Number Plates on
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