In general lingo, we call the vehicle’s license plate a number plate. The metal plate is present at the front and back of the vehicle. It carries the official registration number of the vehicle in bold letters. All the vehicles have their unique numbers.

In India, each license plate number consists of 4 parts and each part serves a specific purpose. Let us find out the meaning of each part.

Let us take the example of a vehicle registration number: MH 98 ZX 1198

Now, this registration number is divided into 4 parts. Here is how:

Part 1 - MH

The first part of the vehicle registration number indicates the name of state or union territory to which it belongs. In this example, the vehicle belongs to Maharashtra whose state code is “MH”. If the vehicle is from Delhi, its state code would be DL or vehicle from Goa will bear a state code “GA”. The common practice is to use two most recognisable alphabets of the state and each state has a unique code. This method of numbering vehicle registration started in the 1980s.

Part 2 - 98

The next two digits of the registration plate reflect the sequential number of a district. All the districts of the state handle the registration of their native vehicles. To serve all the official work, each district works from its Regional Transport Office (RTO) to issue vehicle and driver registration.

Part 3 - ZX 1198

The third part is the unique series of letters that helps in recognizing the vehicle. If numbers are not present, alphabets are prefixed to make the registration unique. You also have the option to buy custom numbers by paying an additional price.

Part 4 - HSRP

Here, HSRP stands for High Security Registration Plates. The fourth comes with “IND” written in an oval symbol to reflect that the vehicle registered in India. The oval symbol also has a hologram of chromium resembling ‘Chakra’. The government introduced HSRP in 2005 to reduce the practice of plate tampering and vehicle theft. It has now become mandatory to use HSRP as vehicle registration plates. However, few states are yet to implement the practice.

What is a TR Sticker?

You often see a TR sticker on the registration plates of new vehicles. TR stands for “To Register”. The temporary registration number is valid for a month. The owner is expected to get the vehicle registered with RTO within this month. With TR number, vehicle owners are not allowed to drive the vehicle on roads, and not adhering to the rules may attract hefty fines.

Custom Number Plates

The VIP or customised numbers like 4444 or 1111 are available for an additional cost. The lesser the availability of a number, the pricier it gets. For instance, single-digit numbers like 7 or 1 are available at hefty prices. The prices can shoot up to lakhs of rupees. It is also because numbers below 100 are normally reserved for government vehicles. RTO often holds auctions for special numbers in several states. The details of the auction are present on RTO websites.

Colours of Number Plates

White - Refers to a private vehicle

Yellow - Refers to commercial vehicles including Bus, Truck, and Taxis among others

Blue -  Refers to number plates of foreign delegates and embassies. It is also called a diplomatic plate

Black - Refers to commercial vehicle with a private owner

Red - Refers to vehicles of the President of India and Governors of states and union territories

Upward Arrow - Refers to vehicles belonging to the armed forces. It carries an upward arrow and replaces the state code with the year of manufacture of the vehicle

Hope this information will help you understand the eco-system of vehicle registration number plates in India.