Everything You Need To Know About Vehicle Number Plate

As per the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, no vehicle can be driven by any person in public places in India until it is registered by a registering authority. When the registration process of a vehicle is complete, it is assigned a number plate which is known as the official number plate. The number plate assigned to a vehicle is unique and no other vehicle in the country will have the same number plate.

Components of a vehicle number plate

A vehicle number plate that is assigned by the registering authority to the motor vehicle is not just a collection of random number and alphabets. Each vehicle number plate has a specific format which is mentioned in detail below:

  • Part 1: The first part of a vehicle number plate indicates the state or union territory in which the motor vehicle has been registered. For example, if the vehicle has been registered in the state of Tamil Nadu, the first two alphabets of the vehicle number plate will be ‘TN’. This method of denoting the state in the number plate started in the 1980s.
  • Part 2: The next two digits after the first two alphabets is the refers to the district in which the vehicle was registered. Each district in a state is assigned its own sequential number. This is the reason as to why the government has set up Regional Transport Office (RTO) in every district in the country. The RTO in the applicant’s district of residence is responsible for registering the motor vehicle.
  • Part 3: The third part of the vehicle number plate is a number that is different for each vehicle. This component of the number plate makes it unique. If there are no unique numbers left to assign, alphabets are used by the registering authority to replace the last digit. Applicants pay considerable sums of money to get custom made vehicle number plates.
  • Part 4: The fourth part of a vehicle number plate is an oval symbol in which the letters ‘IND’ are written to signify that the vehicle has been registered in India. In High Security Registration Plates (HSRP) the oval symbol also includes a hologram made of chromium on the top of it which resembles a ‘Chakra’. HSRP was introduced in 2005 to reduce the stealing of vehicles. Although the inclusion of chromium hologram has been made mandatory by the government for high security vehicles, it has still not been implemented in many states.

Temporary Vehicle Number Plate

  • When a customer buys a vehicle, he or she is issued a ‘To Register’ (TR) sticker. A TR sticker is nothing but a temporary registration number provided by the registering authority which is valid for a month. During this period the owner of the vehicle must be careful not to drive the vehicle on the road so as to avoid paying a huge fine.
  • There is a proper procedure for the registration of the motor vehicle. The owner of the motor vehicle has to provide the required documents such as PUC, road worthiness certificate, driving license, sales invoice of the vehicle etc. The engine and chassis number of the vehicle is also verified by the registering authority.
  • The license number issued by the registering authority is valid for a period of 20 years.

Selling unique number plates

  • The Regional Transport Office (RTO) sells unique number plates to those motor vehicle owners who want their vehicle number plate to stand out.
  • RTOs hold auctions for vehicle number plates that are considered lucky or have huge demand.
  • The bidding price for these numbers can go as high as Rs.3 Lakh.
  • The only numbers that are very difficult for the owners to get are the numbers below 100. These numbers are reserved for government owned vehicles.

Variation of font in vehicle number plate

  • Variation of font in vehicle number plate is allowed only if the font is clear and can be read with no problem at all from a distance.
  • If the font in the vehicle number plate creates a problem while reading it, it could land the owner of the vehicle in trouble with traffic police.

Variation of font in the number plate

In certain states, the first 0 of the district court is replaced from the vehicle number plate with an alphabet. These alphabets denote the category to which the vehicle belongs. The alphabets and the category of vehicles are:
  • 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 pickup trucks.
  • Y for vehicles for hire.

Importance of the color in vehicle number plates

  • White: If the vehicle number plate of a vehicle is white in color with black font, the vehicle is private and cannot be utilised for commercial purposes.
  • Yellow: If the vehicle number plate is yellow in color with black font, the vehicle is a commercial taxi or a truck although the driver of the vehicle requires a permit from the registering authority to drive it.
  • Blue: If the vehicle number plate is blue in color with white text, it is a vehicle that is being used by a foreign delegate. Also the vehicle number plate will include country code instead of the state code.
  • Black: If the vehicle number plate is black with the font in yellow, it means that the vehicle is commercial with a private owner who has rented the vehicle to someone else to drive. The permit is not required by the driver in this case.
  • Red: If the vehicle number plate is red, the vehicle is being used by the President of India or any of the state governors.
  • Upward Arrow: Military vehicles use a different system for vehicle number plate than any other type of vehicle. The system uses broad arrow as a prefix and the state code is replaced by the year in which the vehicle was manufactured.

Overall, a vehicle plate number has lot of components which are essential for any driving license holder to know.

FAQs on Vehicle Number Plate

  1. What is the current registration format of vehicle number plates?

    The first two letters represent the state or union territory that the vehicle is registered in. The next two numbers are the district numbers. The third part is the ongoing series of the RTO which can be anywhere from one to three letters or no letters at all. The fourth part is any number from 1 to 9999, which is unique to each vehicle. When the four-digit number runs out, a letter is then prefixed to it, and when that too runs out, two letters are prefixed, and so on.

  2. What are High Security Registration Plates (HSRP)?

    Both new and old vehicles should now have an HSRP according to the new vehicle number plate rules. From 1 April 2019, all new vehicles will automatically have the HSRPs affixed to them, according to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. So there is no need for new vehicle owners to spend a lot of time standing in queues or waiting for a long time to get their HSRPs.

  3. What is the benefit of having an HSRP?

    The benefit of having an HSRP is that it helps in the prevention of vehicle theft. This is possible because it is the government that possesses such plates, so vehicle thieves cannot replace the number plate with a plate with another number. This makes it easier to trace and track vehicles that are stolen and also helps to discourage and reduce the incidence of vehicle thefts in India.

  4. What are the features of HSRPs?

    HSRPs have some unique features such as: aluminum plates with rounded edges, a hologram of the chakra and the letters IND (for India), and a removable snap lock with a 7-digit unique code. If the number plate gets damaged, the only way to get a new plate is by visiting the RTO.

  5. How do I get a special number plate?

    Special number plates, or lucky numbers, or VIP numbers, can be obtained through auctions at your respective RTOs. The details of such auctions are available on the websites of the RTOs. However, it is important to note that single numbers or numbers below 100 are typically reserved only for government vehicles. The price of such unique numbers can go up to Rs.3 lakh.

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