Car license plates at a glance – all types of license plates

License plate overview - all license plate types. Different license plates: an H license plate for historic vehicles (above), an export license plate, a Euro license plate and a short-term license plate. (Source: dpa/tmn/Markus Scholz)

The most common license plate is the EU license plate, which replaced the old black and white plates in 1994 and is still valid.

It consists of a distinguishing sign for the administrative district of the registration authority and an identification number. It consists of one or two letters and up to four digits. The nationality within the EU is indicated by the abbreviation on the blue highlighted field on the left edge.

license plates: The Euro license plate indicates the country of origin with an abbreviation on the left edge on a blue background - here the D for Germany. (Source: dpa/tmn/Markus Scholz)

License plates: the euro license plate indicates the country of origin with an abbreviation on the left-hand edge on a blue background – here the D for germany. (source: markus scholz/dpa/tmn)

License plates for E-cars

They were introduced in 2015, look like the EU license plate, but have an "E" embossed behind the identification number, which indicates special rights and advantages. Municipalities may grant free parking to e-cars, plug-in hybrids or e-cars with fuel cells, lift access restrictions or allow bus lanes for electric vehicles.

Vintage car license plate

The law provides for two special types of registration for vintage cars: the H license plate and the red changeable license plate. The former has been in effect since 1997 and is intended for continuous operation of the vehicle. The "H" stands for "historic. The advantage of this type of registration is more favorable taxation.

The second is sufficient if the vehicle in question takes part in events which, according to the vehicle registration ordinance (FZV), "serve the presentation of vintage vehicles and the preservation of the motor vehicle cultural heritage". The red changeable license plate always starts with the number combination "07".

Vehicles with a red classic car license plate do not require an operating permit or registration for journeys to and from such events. Test drives and trips to the workshop are also permitted with these plates.

By law, classic cars are defined as vehicles that "first came into circulation at least 30 years ago, are as close as possible to their original condition, and are in a good state of preservation".

License plates: Most cars have a Euro license plate with a blue border. (Source: dpa/Bernd Thissen)

license plates: most cars have a euro license plate with a blue border. (source: bernd thissen/dpa)

Seasonal license plate

It also contains an indication of the allocated operating period, which may be between two and eleven months. The vehicle may only be driven on public roads during the specified operating period. During the exclusion periods, there is no insurance cover there. Then the vehicle must be parked on private property. A combination with oldie license plates is possible. The seasonal license plate is also available since 1997.

Short-term license plates

Since 1998, private individuals have been using short-term license plates for test drives and transfer journeys. This is why it is often referred to as a transfer license plate. They are valid for a maximum of five days and can be applied for at the registration office at the owner’s residence or at the vehicle location. The expiration date is noted on the right edge with a yellow background according to the day-month-year scheme. The number combination always starts with an "04".

Different license plates: an H license plate for historic vehicles (above), an export license plate, a euro license plate and a short-term license plate. (Source: dpa/tmn/Markus Scholz)

Different license plates: an H license plate for historic vehicles (above), an export license plate, a euro license plate, and a short-term license plate. (source: markus scholz/dpa/tmn)

The red license plate

The counterpart of the short-term license plate for "reliable" vehicles according to the law dealers, manufacturers and garages can use the red license plate, which is issued to different vehicles for inspection, test and transfer drives. The identification number consists only of digits beginning with "06". Was this license plate before 1. Valid for private individuals since May 1998, the red license plate has only been valid for commercial use since then.

The changeable number plate

It can be used to register two vehicles of the same class with one license plate, i.e. two passenger cars, two motor homes or two trailers. A changeable license plate may only be used on one of the two vehicles at a time. The vehicle not in use must be parked on private property. This rule and the license plate have existed since 2012.

The changeable license plate consists of two parts: a part that remains on the vehicle and an attachable additional part that makes a vehicle valid for use on the road. The advantage: for a second car – vintage cars are also permitted – this license plate variant can bring more favorable insurance conditions. Since the incentive to buy is nevertheless low, these license plates are rarely seen.

The green license plate

They look like an EU license plate except for the green lettering and are issued for tax-exempt motor vehicles. You can see them in the countryside on forestry and agricultural vehicles, but also on construction sites on cranes or construction machines or on vehicles of exhibitors. Special feature: vehicles marked in this way may not drive faster than 25 km/h.

Export license plate

If a car is not registered and is to be taken abroad permanently, then the export license plate is required. It is valid for a maximum of twelve months. The expiration date of the german liability insurance is recorded exactly with day, month and year and is embossed on a red stripe on the far right.

Export license plate: The expiration date is marked on the right margin on a red background. (Source: dpa/tmn/Markus Scholz)

Export license plate: the expiration date is marked on the right-hand side on a red background. (source: markus scholz/dpa/tmn)

In addition to the registration certificates, proof of special vehicle liability insurance, a valid main inspection and, if applicable, a decommissioning must be submitted for the issue of the green license plate.

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The diplomatic license plate

If you see a license plate on the road that begins with a 0, it is a diplomatic vehicle. The following blocks of digits (either two or three digits) indicate first the country of origin and then the rank of the owner. The lower the number, the higher the diplomat’s rank.

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