Things to Know About Your Vehicle’s Number Plate

The metal plates that we see at the front and rear of the vehicles with the registration number embossed on them are generally referred to as vehicle number plates. The provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 makes it mandatory to register all motorised vehicles with the registering authority and install the registration number plates to the vehicle. The act prohibits the use of an unregistered vehicle in any public place in India. A number plate denotes very specific details of a vehicle and has four important elements. It gives each vehicle a unique identity.

Elements of a Number Plate:

The vehicle registration plate contains the following four parts:

Part 01: The first two letters in the vehicle registration plate denote the code of a state or union territory where the vehicle is registered. For instance, a vehicle registered in Karnataka starts with KA, a vehicle registered in Maharashtra starts with MH, and so on. This method of using the two most important alphabets of the state’s name in the vehicle number plate started in 1980s and still continues.

Below are the State and Union Territory codes for the registration of vehicles in India:

State or Union Territory Code State or Union Territory Code
Andaman and Nicobar Islands AN Lakshadweep LD
Andhra Pradesh AP Maharashtra MH
Arunachal Pradesh AR Meghalaya ML
Assam AS Manipur MN
Bihar BR Madhya Pradesh MP
Chhattisgarh CG Mizoram MZ
Chandigarh CH Nagaland NL
Daman and Diu DD Odisha OD
Delhi DL Punjab PB
Dadra and Nagar Haveli DN Puducherry PY
Goa GA Rajasthan RJ
Gujarat GJ Sikkim SK
Haryana HR Tamil Nadu TN
Himachal Pradesh HP Tripura TR
Jharkhand JH Telangana TS
Jammu and Kashmir JK Uttarakhand UK
Karnataka KA Uttar Pradesh UP
Kerala KL West Bengal WB

Part 02: After the state or UT code, the next two digits in the vehicle number plate represent the district in which a vehicle is registered. There is an RTO (Regional Transport Office) designated for each district that deals with issuing driving licenses, vehicle registration numbers, and other vehicle related issues.

Part 03: The third important part in a vehicle license plate is the unique registration number assigned to the vehicle. The 4-digit registration number is always allotted from the range 0001 to 9999. If the numbers in the series are unavailable, the last digits are replaced with letters and the same range of numbers is used again. Vehicle owners may also buy a fancy/custom vehicle registration number at a premium price.

Part 04: The fourth element in a registration plate is the ‘IND’ oval logo, which is an acronym for India. The oval logo has a ‘chakra’ chromium logo on it and is used in HSRPs (High Security Number Plates). The tamper-proof registration number plates were first introduced in 2005 to decrease vehicle theft incidents.


When someone buys a new vehicle, the vehicle dealer issues a TR label that refers to ‘To Register’. The label comes with a temporary registration number which stands valid for a month. The owner of the vehicle must visit the local RTO within this period and register their vehicles by submitting all the required documents and completing the related procedure. Post vehicle inspection and document verification, the RTO issues a unique vehicle registration number to the vehicle.

Vehicle Registration Process In India:

An application to the registering authority can be made in CMV Form No. 20 to register a new non-commercial/private vehicle in India. The owner of the vehicle needs to submit the certificate of sales, vehicle roadworthiness certificate, chassis number print, and other necessary documents along with their application. They also must pay the registration fee and one-time road tax to complete the registration process. Here is the list of documents to be submitted:

  1. Application in CMV Form 20 (Additional photocopy required in case of vehicle hypothecation)
  2. Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate
  3. Vehicle Road-worthiness certificate
  4. Form 22 issued by the vehicle manufacturer
  5. Certificate of sales in Form 21
  6. Vehicle Insurance Document
  7. Address proof of the applicant (one of the following):
  • Aadhar Card
  • LIC Policy
  • PAN Card
  • Ration Card
  • Voter ID Card
  • Affidavit by the vehicle owner attested by a Notary, an executive, or Class I Judicial Magistrate.

8. Temporary Registration Certificate (For temporarily registered vehicles)

9. Passport sized photos (3 Copies)

10. Lifetime tax to be paid for private/non-commercial vehicle

Registration of Fancy Vehicle Number Plates:

A lot of vehicle owners these days opt for fancy number plates to make their vehicles standout from the crowd. Numbers like 0786, 1111, 9999, and others are high in demand and some people do not mind shedding some extra money on getting these special registration numbers. However, fancy numbers cannot be availed through the regular vehicle registration process as these numbers are kept aside by the state transport authority and are slotted through a separate bidding process. It is because there may be more than one applicant for a particular number and the same number cannot be allotted to multiple persons.

A singular number such as 1 or 7 cannot be availed as numbers below 100 are generally allotted to registered government vehicles. The VIP/fancy numbers can cost up to Rs.3 lakh and are allotted through auctions conducted by RTOs in various states. The list of available fancy numbers can be found in the official transport websites of various states.

Using A Custom Font For Vehicle Number Plate:

A vehicle owner must opt for a font that is clearly visible from a distance. Use of fonts that are difficult to read or are confusing is prohibited. Reasoned to this, it is always advised to use bold lettering to avoid getting into trouble with the traffic police.

Variation Of Format:

In few of the states, the first ‘0’ of the district code is replaced with a vehicle category. Following are category codes assigned for different kinds of vehicles.

  • C- SUVs and cars
  • E - Electric powered vehicles
  • P - Transport Vehicles/Passenger vehicles
  • R - Three-wheeler vehicles
  • S - Two-wheelers
  • T - Tourist licensed vehicles
  • V - Vans and pickup trucks
  • Y – Rental vehicles

What Do Number Plate Colours Stand For?

Depending on the purpose of the vehicle or the vehicle category. Number plates can be of different colours:

  • White: All private cars and motorised bikes and scooters are required to have a white number plate with letters and numbers in black colour.
  • Black: Commercial vehicles that have a private owner but are rented out for commercial use are required to have a black coloured number plate with text in yellow. A commercial driving permit is not required in such cases.
  • Yellow: Commercial vehicles such as taxis, busses, and trucks are required to have a yellow number plate with texts in black. To drive a commercial vehicle, one needs to obtain an official permit from the RTO.
  • Blue: Vehicles that are used by foreign delegates are needed to have blue coloured number plates with numbers and letters in white. The state code in these number plates are replaced with country code to identify the country the vehicle is registered to.
  • Red: All vehicles used by the president or the state governors should have red coloured number plates. The vehicle number in such vehicles is replaced by the gold embossed emblem of India.
  • Upward arrow: Vehicles owned by defence institutions have a different format of vehicle numbers. The upward arrow is used as the prefix for the vehicle number and the year of manufacture is used instead of the state code. The vehicles owned by armed forces are registered with the Ministry of Defence, New Delhi.

The format for vehicle registration number has evolved in past years reasoned to the increase in the number of vehicles in the country and expansion in the number of vehicle classes and subclasses.

GST Update: GST of 18% is applicable on car insurance effective from the 1st of July, 2017

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