29 Jul 2020

Have you recently purchased a new car? If yes, that means you must have got it registered at the nearest RTO in your area. The registered number is then embossed on the vehicle number plate that is attached to the car.

In this section, we will be discussing everything you need to know about the car number plate.

While the number plate seems to have random alphanumeric values, each section holds a specific purpose. The primary objective of having the number plate placed in the front and back of the car is to make it easier for others to identify the vehicle.

How to read a number plate?

A vehicle registration number plate is divided into four sections. Here’s a breakdown of a number plate for a vehicle that is registered in Maharashtra.

Number Plate - MH05DO1017


MH - The first section represents the state or union territory. In this case, ‘MH’ indicates Maharashtra. For vehicles that are registered in Gujarat will have ‘GJ’ and Delhi will have ‘DL’. The use of state in the number plate began in the 1980s.

05 - The next two digits represent the district’s sequential number. Every state has several districts in it, and the districts handle the registration of the new vehicles. Each area will have its own RTO (Regional Transport Office), where vehicle registration and other vehicle-related work is processed.

DO - The section in the number plate is a unique number that identifies the vehicle. In case no unique numbers are available, then alphabets are used to replace the last digit. Note that one can buy custom numbers for a premium price.

HSRP - The last section in the number plate is an oval symbol that displays ‘IND’. This indicates that the vehicle has been registered in India. At times, the oval symbol also has a chromium hologram on the top that resembles a Chakra. This is called the High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP) and was introduced in the year 2005 with a plan to reduce car theft.

Special Formats of Number Plates

Besides the standard number plate format, there are special formats of number plates that include the vehicles of -

  1. The President
  2. The State Governor
  3. Military Officers
  4. Diplomats
  5. State Government Employees

Unique Colours of Number Plates

The following is the list of colours in number plates and what they represent-

  • White: A white colour number plate is for private vehicles. These cars cannot be used for commercial or any other purpose.
  • Yellow: A yellow colour number plate is for commercial vehicles such as trucks and taxis. The driver of this vehicle needs an official permit to use the vehicle for commercial purposes.
  • Blue: A blue colour number plate is used by foreign delegates. The text on these number plates is in white. Instead of the state code, these number plates have the country code written on it.
  • Black: A black colour number plate is used by commercial vehicles that have a private owner. These vehicles have been exclusively rented for commercial use and do not require a commercial driving permit.
  • Red: A red colour number plate is used by vehicles that seat the President of India and the State Governors. Here, the licence number is replaced by the Emblem of India and is embossed in gold.
  • Upward Arrow: Military vehicles in India have their unique way with number plates. It uses a broad arrow as a prefix for the number. Also, the state code is replaced with digits that resemble the year in which the vehicle was procured. The registration of these vehicles is done by the Ministry of Defence, New Delhi.
  • Green: As per the Government of India, all the electric vehicles will be marked with a green number plate.

Custom Font for the Number Plate

The font you choose for the number plate should be readable from a distance. Any discrepancy in this will attract trouble when caught by the traffic police in India. Hence, it is advised to use clear and bold letters on the number plate.

Variation of Format on the Number Plate

Many states in India use a unique format. Here, the first digit of the district code is replaced by a category letter. This letter refers to the category of vehicle, such as-

  • C - cars and SUVs
  • S - two-wheelers
  • E - electric vehicles
  • P - passenger vehicles like buses
  • R - three-wheelers
  • T - tourist licenced vehicles
  • V - vans and pickup trucks
  • Y - vehicles for hire

To Conclude

By now, you must have a brief understanding of vehicle number plates and its representation. Know that tampering with the number plate or its font can attract hefty penalties under the New Motor Vehicle Act, 2019. Hence, it is advisable to keep the number plate intact and in good condition.

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