Everything You Need To Know About Vehicle Number Plate

A vehicle licence plate is commonly known as ‘a number plate’. It is a metal plate which is attached to a vehicle and has the official registration number of a vehicle embossed on it. While it may seem like random numbering, the official number in India consists of 4 different parts, each of which has a specific purpose to it. Number plates are placed at the front and back of the vehicle and help anyone quickly identify a vehicle.

 Breakdown Of A Number Plate

The format of the vehicle number plate is as follows:

The first part indicates the state or Union territory, this is denoted by 2 letters. For example, in the state of Maharashtra, a vehicle number plate starts with the code ‘MH”, in Gujarat with ‘GJ” and in Delhi as ‘DL’. The 2 most significant alphabets of the state’s name are used. This method began in the 1980s.

The next 2 digits refer to a district’s sequential number. Since every state has at least one district in it, the district itself handles the registration of new vehicles. For this purpose, each district has its own RTO, i.e. a regional road transport office, which is in-charge of driver and vehicle registrations.

The third part is a unique number which helps to identify the vehicle when needed, if a number is unavailable then letters are used to replace the last digit. This ensures to provide a surplus number of codes for all vehicles. It is often a common practice to buy custom numbers for a premium price. That’s why you see some unique numbers on the road.

The fourth and final part is an oval logo which reads, “IND”, the acronym for India; this oval also has a chromium hologram on top of it which resembles a chakra. This is only a phenomenon which is observed in High Security Registration Plates (HSRP). These are tamper-proof plates that were introduced in the year 2005. Though it is mandatory for all motor vehicles to have these, certain states are yet to adopt them completely. So if you do not have an IND acronym logo on your car’s licence plate, do not fret immediately.

All these unique codes come together to give your vehicle a unique identification.


Every time a buyer purchases a new vehicle, the dealer issues a TR sticker to it. TR refers to ‘to register’. It is a temporary number which is only valid for a period of one month. Within this period, the owner must visit the district’s RTO to officially register the vehicle and get a standard license plate. The motor vehicle inspector at the RTO office is responsible for the verification.

During the period when your motor vehicle is yet to be registered, you cannot drive your vehicle on the road. It may be subjected to hefty fines.

The process of registration includes verification of the vehicle purchased, your address etc. Before the registration is complete, the RTO inspector also cross checks details such as the engine and chassis numbers. If you are going to register a newly purchased vehicle, it is a must to carry all the important documents like PUC, your driving licence, sales invoice etc. In the case of public utility vehicles, documents such as a road-worthiness certificate and a transportation permit are also required. The official lifespan of the allotted license number is 20 years.

Sale Of Custom Vehicle Number Plates

In order to make your vehicle stand out, you can opt for a custom number too. An example of this would be codes such as 3333 or 6666. It is difficult to purchase a singular number, such as 7, particularly because numbers below 100 are commonly registered to government vehicles. These special ‘lucky numbers’ are often available for sale. They can command quite a hefty sum, but surely help a car turn some heads. The pricing for such a unique number can go as high as Rs. 3 lakh, and it is often a common practice for RTOs to hold an auction for them in certain states. You could check the details on auction of such numbers on your state RTOs website. Do not fall for false promises made by an agent when it comes to vehicle registration numbers.

Opting For A Custom Font

In most cases, there are certain rules and regulations in place when it comes to the font which is used on the vehicle number plate. It is, however, a common practice to opt for custom fonts. These unique fonts can help add some personality to your vehicle licence plate.

Personalization options can go a long way if you simply wish to spend. As long as the number is visible from a distance, there shouldn’t be any issue in regards to using a custom font on the plate.

Many stores and websites provide the service of making custom vehicle number plates, going as far as to offering installations for them. Ensure that the font you opt for the vehicle registration plate is visible from a distance. Any discrepancy might get you in trouble with the traffic police.

Variation Of Format

Certain states opt for a unique format, where the first 0 of the district court is omitted and replaced with a category letter. This refers to the category of the vehicle, C for cars & SUVs, S for two-wheelers, E for electric vehicles, P for passenger vehicles, i.e. buses, R for three-wheeler rickshaws, T for tourist licensed vehicles, V for vans and pick-up trucks and Y for vehicles for hire.

This is commonly seen in states such as Delhi, Gujarat and Bihar.

What Do The Unique Colours of Number Plates Stand For?

If you have ever paid attention to vehicles around you while driving, you must have noticed that certain vehicles have different colour vehicle number plates. They could be white, yellow, blue and black colour plates. Each colour signifies a specific purpose.

White: A white number plate with black text on it refers to a private vehicle which belongs to an ordinary citizen. This vehicle cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Yellow: A yellow number plate with black text on it is assigned to commercial vehicles such as taxis and trucks. The truck/taxi driver requires an official permit in order to drive a commercial vehicle.

Blue: A blue number plate is given to a vehicle which is being used by foreign delegates, these have white text instead of black. It is criteria for them to show the country code, which replaces the state code.

Black: Black number plates with yellow text on it are commercial vehicles which have a private owner but have been rented out for commercial purposes. In such a case a commercial driving permit is not mandatory.

Red: Perhaps the most unique type of vehicle number plate is the red one. It is used for vehicles which seats the President of India and various State Governors. Such a vehicle replaces the license number with the Emblem of India, embossed in gold.

Upward arrow: A military vehicle follows a unique system of its own, it uses a broad arrow as a prefix for the number, and replaces a state code with digits resembling the year in which the vehicle was procured. These vehicles are registered with the Ministry of Defence, New Delhi.


As modern Indian citizen, we should be aware of all the variations used in license numbers across the nation, as well as the various licenses and documents which are necessary in order to officially register a new vehicle and obtain the official license plate. The system of license plate coding is one which has evolved from time to time and will surely continue to do as the number of motor vehicles in this country continues to rise.

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