Number Plates Around the World

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Number plates are not all the same around the world. They vary hugely in different countries, and it’s interesting to look at the ways in which they vary and what makes them different. Here at Primo Registrations, we’re passionate about number plates and we’re now going to take a look at some examples of how they vary around the globe.




The current UK registration system has been in place since 2001 and the font used for the number plates here is called Charles Wright 2001. The first two characters of the number plate indicate the area code and the following two numbers indicate the age of the vehicle. There’s then a cap and three letters are chosen randomly to end the number plate. The spacing, letter size and font must all adhere to the rules.




The US doesn’t have one single way of displaying car registrations. That’s because each state has its own format, design and colours. It’s often the case that smaller areas and DMV jurisdictions have less complex number plate formats and might only use letters. But bigger states such as California use a combination of numbers and letters on their number plates. Most states use validation stickers that have to be renewed every year.




All of the Canadian jurisdictions with the exception of Nunavut have an embossed number plate design. Numbers and letters are included in the formats of Canadian number plates and they are commonly displayed in ascending order. The Northwest Territories has an interesting design quirk; it’s number plates are shaped like polar bears! It’s certainly a unique way of displaying a number plate on a vehicle. Specialty plates with unique logos and symbols on them can be purchased and used too.




The Vehicle Management Offices in China distribute number plates. At the moment, the format and design of the number plate, including its colour, will depend on the type of vehicle. Compact cars have white letters on a blue background, while green energy-efficient vehicles have green backgrounds instead. Large vehicles use yellow plates with black lettering. The first character on the number plate indicates the province and the next character indicates the city where the vehicle is registered.




India also uses a system of different colours for different kinds of vehicles. White number plates are for personal vehicles, yellow plates are for commercial vehicles, black plates are for rental vehicles and blue is used for embassy vehicles. It makes it easy to see what kind of purpose a vehicle is serving. They use letters and numbers that relate to the district codes where the vehicles are registered.




Unlike most other number plates on the world, Japan uses two lines on their number plates. The top line of the number plate displays information relating to where that number plate was issued and what the vehicle class code is. The bottom line, on the other hand, shows the vehicle’s serial number. It certainly makes these number plates different to most others in the world.




Only Arabic characters and digits are used on Egyptian number plates. The design and formats also differ depending on the vehicle itself. Taxis have orange plates, buses have grey plates, limos have beige plates, private vehicles have light blue plates and trucks have red plates. There are also plates for diplomatic vehicles which are green and even for hearses, which are black.




Morocco uses a relatively simple number plate format. There are five and then a final two digits at the end with two vertical lines in between. The two digits at the end show you where the vehicle was registered. They use a simple and plain design for their numbers plates too. A white background is used and the digits are printed on the background in black for additional clarity.


South Africa


South Africa’s approach to number plate designs and formats is very varied. Number plates differ depending on the province; they can have different colours, designs and numbering systems. It’s really hard to pin down a consistent theme throughout these South African number plates because there isn’t one. That’s what makes their approach so unique.


As you can see, the way in which number plates are displayed and laid out around the world varies a lot. It’s interesting to look into why that’s the case and how other countries approach the challenge of vehicle registration. If you’re looking for a new number plate at the moment, Primo Registrations is here to help you.