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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, while in others it is unique within a state or province. Whether the identifier is associated with a vehicle or a person also varies by issuing agency. Depending on the country, the vehicle registration plate may be called a registration plate (UK), license plate (US), number plate, or tag.

Some jurisdictions license non-traditional vehicles such as golf carts, particularly on on-road vehicles such as this one in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Legal requirements

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, require only one plate, which is usually attached to the rear of the vehicle. 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 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. If 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 for overland 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, they may require periodic changing. For cost-saving reasons the tendency for the past three decades has been to replace a small decal on the plate or to use a decal on the windshield to indicate the expiration date of the registration. 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 or attach plates that they already hold, as well as registering their vehicles under the buyer's name and the plate number. 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 be permitted to keep them. Other states keep the plate with the vehicle when ownership passes.

Plates are usually fixed directly to a vehicle or to a plate frame that is 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 frames to replace the original frames. In some U.S. states license plate frames are illegal. Plates are designed to conform to standards with regards to being read by 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 to prevent electronic equipment from scanning the license plate. Although perhaps useful to those avoiding detection from police, these covers are not legal in the 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.

A license plate from another state can be worn on a vehicle if the jurisdiction and local laws permit it. If the local laws assign only a rear plate, it is possible to have the license plate of another state, doing so will not result in illegality.

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 (including Washington, D.C. and its territories), under federal law that vehicle may be driven into any other U.S. state, and into some other countries, including Canada and Mexico, due to international agreements and treaties.


License plates have been around almost as long as automobiles, appearing in the earliest period of the transition from the horse, 1890 to 1910. France was the first to introduce a license plate, in 1893, followed by Germany in 1896.[1] The Netherlands was the first country to introduce a national licence plate, called a "driving permit", in 1898. The first licences were plates with a number, starting at 1. By August 8, 1899 the counter was at 168. When the Netherlands chose a different way to number the plates on January 15, 1906 the last issued plate was 2001.

In the U.S., where each state issues plates, New York State has required plates since 1901. At first, plates were not government issued in most 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 ceramic with no backing, which made them fragile and impractical. Few 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 need to be 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.

  • 520 mm by 110 or 120 mm (20.5 by 4.5 inches) - in the bulk of European countries and many of their former overseas territories.
  • 372 mm by 135 mm (14.5 by 5.3 inches) - 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.
  • 12 by 6 inches (300 mm by 150 mm) - in the majority of the Americas.

Vehicle registration plates by country or territory



Normal vehicles have number plates starting with the letter B, followed by three digits, followed by three letters. The digits and letters are assigned by a registrar. The three letters never include the letter Q, to avoid confusion with O. Botswana number plates have either a reflective white front and yellow rear background, and black lettering.

Government Vehicles all have the prefix "BX", the meaning of which code is unknown - these number plates have a white reflective background with red lettering at the front and white on red at the rear. After 'BX' is the last two numerals of the date of issue and then up to four serial numbers. Botswana Defence Force vehicles have the prefix "BDF" in white on an 'army' green background.

Diplomatic vehicles' number plates start with two numerals which indicate the embassy to which they are attached, then two letters (CD (Corps Diplomatique), CC (Consular Corps status) or CT (Foreign Technical and Advisory personnel - the 'CT' abbreviation is not precisely understood) and another three digits which are serial. The official car of the Head of Mission uses the letters CMD rather that CD and the private vehicle uses CDA. This series is allocated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[2]

Botswana is the former British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, and number-plates then used a 'BP' prefix (then BPA, BPB etc.) followed by up to three numbers, in white on black background, the plates being made in the characteristic style of South Africa at that time.

South Africa

South African number plates are unique in each of the provinces. Each province has their own number plate design and colours, as well as numbering scheme.


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).


In the European Union, white or yellow number plates of a common format and size are issued throughout, although they are 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, and the license plates that are issued by the government body which assigns these are of the smaller format, too. In 1908 number plates were only 3 Numbers and 1 letter long as one can see on a car owned by the artist Anna Boch [3]. 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.

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 states of Switzerland, Norway and Turkey also recognise 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.


The numbers for license plates, commonly known as 'number plates' in India, are issued by the Regional Transport Office of each district but vehicle owners have private shops make the plates after registration. Two types of license 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.

This is often followed by a series code, e.g. 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 PY-01 9999, the next number is PY-01 A 0001 and after PY-01 Z 9999 it is PY-01 AA 0001 and so on..


  • AP 01 2345, is a vehicle registered in [Adilabad District], AndhraPradesh State.
  • WB 02 A 9999, is a vehicle registered in [Kolkatta City] , West Bengal State.
  • PY 01 B 6226 is a vehicle registered in [Pondicherry] , Pondicherry State.
  • AP 37 9898 is a vehicle registered in [West Godhavari District] AndhraPradesh State ,
  • DL 01 CA 2345 is a vehicle registration in Delhi, [National Capital].

Although many people use illegal ways of number plating, like writing in regional script instead of Latin(Roman).They use regional language script like Devanagari, Kannada, Tamil etc. Many of them use plates influenced by EU plates, they have blue band on initial letters.


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 to three 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.
  • In Jakarta, vehicles from year of 2009 and later start using three letter suffix, B 1234 ABC
  • 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.


The license plates of Iran have a white background and are in the format: ##@###|XX. XX and @ depends on the province and county that car belongs to. In the license plate of governmental cars the background is red, the numbers are white and the @ is الف. For Taxis the @ is a small ت at the bottom and a TAXI at the top. In public cars (buses and trucks) the @ is an ع as in عمومي means public.


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

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.


Jordanian private vehicle registration plate

Jordan requires its residents to register their motor vehicles and display vehicle registration 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" (car plates renewal tax). 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 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. European-sized plates do exist in Mexico, but are not official or technically even legal.[4] These generally contain the same design as the standard-size plate in use at the time, and bear the standard letter and number sequence.

Mexican plates come in several different classification: Private, Private Border, Public, Public Border, Federal Public Service, Fiscal and Customs Inspection, Mexico Army, and diplomatic. The border 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 (9 mi) border with the U.S., it does not have any cities within the border zone.

United States and Canada

Although license plates ("licence plates" in Canada) have only existed for just over one hundred years in the United States and Canada, they have developed a unique history that has undergone several periods and changes.

Standard Saskatchewan plate
Standard Michigan plate
Standard New Brunswick plate

The first license plates in the United States and Canada appeared in 1903 when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the province of Ontario began requiring motor vehicles to display them. Soon after, other states followed suit, with virtually every state having adopted a form of license plates by 1918.[citation needed]

The first license plates in the United States were made out of leather, rubber, iron and porcelain, painted on the front in usually two different colors—one for the background and one for the lettering. This scheme held true for most states until about 1920. The front of the plate would usually contain the registration number in large digits, and in smaller lettering on one side of the plate, the two- or four-digit year number, and an abbreviated state name. Each year, citizens were usually required to obtain a new license plate from the state government, which would have a different color scheme than the previous year, making it easier for police to identify whether or not citizens were current with their vehicle registration.

Even before 1920, some states had adopted the technique of embossing the metal plates with raised lettering and numbering, without porcelain, and applying paint all over the plate, directly onto the metal. Minnesota introduced some license plates during this period with three different years embossed into the plate, so that the plates were valid for three consecutive years (e.g., 1918, 1919, and 1920).

In the United States and Canada, license plates are issued by each state or provincial government. The federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. In the United States, many Native American tribal governments issue plates for their members, while some states provide special issues for tribal members. 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 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 (such as Pennsylvania, which posts the address of its 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. Indiana county stickers are at the top. Alabama, 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—Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, 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 the United States, 20 states do not require an official front license plate, these states being Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia and the territories Guam and Puerto Rico. 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.[5] In Canada, 9 of the 13 provinces and territories do not require an official front plate, including the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Québec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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 plates of Nunavut and the Canadian Northwest Territories are shaped like a polar bear.[6]

Canadian Forces vehicles that travel on regular roads display license plates. These vehicles have plates issued by the Department of National Defence. Domestic plates were issued by the DND after 1968.

In many states and provinces, license plates are made by prison inmates.[7][8]


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

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 2007 standard (GA36-2007), 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

There are six types of Russian registration 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" where 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. Route vehicles (buses, trolleys and fixed-run taxies) - yellow background and black characters with "@@### | RR" template.



Victorian Special issue "Europlate" (Illustration)

In Australia, vehicle registration plates, usually known as number plates, are normally issued by the State or Territory government; until 2000 some were 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 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. New South Wales, for example, was allocated AAA000 to FZZ999, Victoria was allocated from GAA000, Queensland was allocated OAA000 to QZZ999 and South Australia was allocated from RAA000. 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. Victoria is currently the last state to retain the xxx-nnn format as South Australia scrapped the old format as of 1 October 2008.

Current arrangements are listed below.

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

In 1942 Government release new special series only alphabet (XB-AA OPS)

Current standard Australian number plate formats (As at 06/12/2009)
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: AB-12-CD.
  • 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: ABC-123.
  • Queensland: Maroon text on white background, with "QUEENSLAND - SUNSHINE STATE" or "QUEENSLAND - THE SMART STATE" under the plate code.
    Code format: 123-ABC
  • South Australia: Black on white with "SOUTH AUSTRALIA" under code.
    Code format: S123-ABC.
  • 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: 1ABC-234. Even older Western Australian plates use a locality code, followed by a sequential number, e.g. AL 123 being for Albany, plate number 123. Some rural locations added a central dot to signify if the plate was issued for shire or town based drivers. This locality based system is still active, although it needs to be offered or asked for at the time of licensing the vehicle.
  • Tasmania: Green on white with "TASMANIA - Explore The Possibilities " at bottom and thylacine between the 1st letter and 2 numbers digits. Older plates may show "TASMANIA - HOLIDAY ISLE".
    Code format: A -12-BC
  • Northern Territory: Orange text on white background with "NT - OUTBACK AUSTRALIA" over code.
    Code format: 123-456.

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 in annual colours on a 6 year cycle: blue, red, purple, brown, green and orange. This sticker is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle upon 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 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 plates from one car to another will be in contrast to the details on the sticker.

The Western Australia registration sticker shows only the month and year of expiry. However, since the Western Australian police now have such easy access to registration information based on the numberplate via in-car computer systems found in all police vehicles, registration stickers in Western Australia have been completely scrapped.[9] As of 1 January 2010 they will no longer be required or made - a move that is said to save at least $2 million over 4 years in costs for printing and postage. Car owners will also feel the relief of not having to perform the tedious task of removing and re-applying the registration sticker every 6-12 months.

New Zealand

The current system used in New Zealand was adopted in 1964, all vehicles were required to have their plates replaced to this system. The original format in this system was xx-nnnn with the original plate being AA1 plates were on a black background with silver text. In 1986 this was changed to a white reflective blackground with black text with the first plate in this style being NA1. In 2001 the final plate ZZ9999 was printed and the format was changed to xxx-nnn. In 2006 the text format was changed on all plates registered after this time.[10]

Personalised plates were introduced to New Zealand in 1987. Due to this size and population of New Zealand the same system is used across all of the country. Plates are usually issued by New Zealand Post.

Vanity and specialty plates

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 plate. The Smoking Gun: Public Documents, Mug Shots Some U.S. states allow amateur radio operators to use their callsign for a lower fee than a regular vanity plate.[11]

File:NY HAM Radio Plate.jpg
A New York State Ham Radio license plate, showing the operator's call sign.

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.[12] 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.

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 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.[13] 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. 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 14 million[citation needed]. The license plate "1" was bought at an auction in Abu Dhabi conducted by Emirates Auction

Temporary licence plates

Temporary Licence plate Ontario

Some jurisdictions issue temporary licence plates made of security paper for drivers waiting for plates in the mail, or other registration issues. A 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 regulatory 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 impounding 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 or other words or phrases, 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, athletic team, hobby, art, or custom.

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. Wisconsin, for instance, permits the use of year-of-manufacture plates if the state-issued plates are also carried somewhere within the vehicle.

Licence plate accessories

Miami Beach license topper

Today, plates are commonly attached with screws that mount into threaded fittings on the vehicle but originally nut-and-bolt combinations were needed to fasten the plate to a bracket, which led to the use of varied licence plate ornaments, accessories and attachments. The most common of these include fastening bolts with ornamental heads in a myriad of styles; these are generally legal everywhere providing the plate itself is not obscured. Those bolts faced with a colored glass or plastic reflector are termed license plate jewels. Traditionally the front plate would be fastened by an amber or green jewel and the rear by a red jewel, but other colors have become available over the decades including blue, clear and, most recently, purple.

The manufacture and use of license plate toppers - attachments and accessories mounted atop plates, often as advertising premiums - has diminished because of the design of modern vehicle bodies that incorporate recessed plate mountings. But older vehicles will usually have room for such attachments that may mention vehicle dealerships, tourist attractions and petroleum companies. Some of these commercial toppers also incorporate one or more reflectors or a safety-related message. Large stand-alone glass or plastic reflectors or cataphotes - some imprinted with an advertising message - are still common plate toppers whenever registration-plate brackets are able to accommodate them.

International 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 some rare Canadian cars bearing CDN ovals travelling into the US), putting one on a car is a matter of personal choice. 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. In Wales, drivers commonly display CYM to indicate Cymru (Wales).

See also


  1. De (Dutch)
  2. Road Transport (Permits) Act, CHAPTER 69:03
  3. - 964-Z, the number of Anna Boch´s Minerva registered in Belgium in 1908
  4. Yahoo! GeoCities
  5. Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles
  6. CBC News
  7. NC.GOV
  8. Government of Ontario, Canada / Gouvernement de l'Ontario, Canada (English), (French)
  9. "Registration stickers a thing of the past"
  10. "License Plates of New Zealand". Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  11. Oregon DMV Regular-Issue License Plates
  12. Personalised Plates Queensland
  13. News article

External links


Information resources

  • - A site for plate enthusiasts featuring regular news updates, a huge list of web links, and various other tools.
  • PL8S.COM - Various resources for plate collectors, including an extensive list of jurisdictions issuing plates.
  • Search banned Wisconsin license plates - A searchable database of nearly 8,000 banned plates.
  • Plate-Trader - A UK based number plate classifieds website with a useful guides section, giving step by step instructions on all things number plate related.

Photo galleries

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