The map above shows the various license, vehicle registration and number plate designs across Europe. But it’s not just the designs that different, some plates actually contain some useful information such as:
Reddit user obries39 comments for Ireland that:
Not sure if other licence plates give readable information about the registration, but in Ireland the first two numbers tell you the year the car was registered (16 = 2016), the third number tells you what half of the year (1 = first half), the letters tell you what county it was registered in (D = Dublin), and the last set of numbers yells you what number on the list of registrations it is.
In Turkish plates first two numbers would indicate the municipality it was registered in, 34 for İstanbul 35 for İzmir 42 for Konya etc
Panceltic & crikeyboy comment that:
The British plates work similarly. Y is Yorkshire and 53 is the second half of 2003.
The second letter (R) refers to a specific DVLA office too, so this one is Sheffield
QuastQuan comments that:
In Germany the first group of 1, 2 or 3 letters left from the label (in this map CUX for Cuxhaven) tell you in which town or district the car is registered. The second group of letters (1 or 2) are random, so are the (1 – 4) digits in the end. Normally you can choose the letters and digits, some combinations will normally not be issued, like SS, KZ, AC-AB (AC for Aachen).
In some areas a city and a district share the same first letter(s), like Munich City and District. M + 2 letters and 4 digits is Munich City, all other combinations are Munich district.
Electric cars have an E added after the digits, cars older than 30 years can have a H after the digits, both for tax and additional law reasons.
AFAIK the regulations in some European countries are similar, like Austria, Switzerland, Italy and former Yugoslavian countries, the first one or two letters tell you where the car is registered.
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In Bulgaria, only the first group of letters carries a meaning, indicating in which of the country’s 28 districts the vehicle is registered.
Before the eary 90s, when the full Cyrillic alphabet was used, the identification letter group was a reasonably intelligible abbreviation of the district’s name.
However, for easy readability abroad, now the allowed letterforms (glyphs) are limited to only a dozen which exist in both Cyrillic and Latin scripts.
It ls only about graphic similarity, else these often stand for different sounds, eg Cyrilliic C = S, Cyrillic P = R. Cyrillic B = V etc.
The current district codes still bear some relevance to the district names (eg. EH = ПлЕвеН = Pleven, OB = ЛОВеч = Lovech), but it is often hard to guess the district of registration unless you know upfront what a specific code means.
Not sure if it is still the case, but in Austria the license plate numbers used to be allocated to drivers rather than cars, so a very low number meant you had been driving for a very long time!
Jersey plates begin with J (a small few begin with JSY) followed by only digits. Plates with fewer digits cost more; plates can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle.
Guernsey plates are all digits.
Jersey (and UK) front plates are black on white, rear plates are black on yellow.