Are you moving to a different country? Want to learn more about the appearance of car registration plates in other countries, or are you unsure how to read them?

This blog will teach you how to read car registrations. Learn when to replace your car’s registration plate and how different countries display their registration plates.

What is vehicle registration? Do you know if your vehicle needs a new registration when you move to another country in Europe or not? Are you looking for information on car registration in the UK?

Example Vehicle Registration Plates From EU Countries.

There are some differences in the way that most registration plates are read across Europe.


In Germany, a vehicle’s registration plate is usually white. The characters, which make up the registration numbers, are black. German license plates, like most plates in the EU, display the EU flag to the left. The letter “D” is also displayed to indicate that the plate belongs to a vehicle registered within Germany/Deutschland.

The rest of the German registration plates is divided into three sections. The leftmost section, immediately after the EU flag and country code, is a set of characters that corresponds to the German region where the vehicle has been registered, for example, D for Dusseldorf or B for Berlin.

The second part of the plate is composed of a safety testing sticker at the bottom and a registration sticker for the German state that corresponds to the top. The back plate usually displays both stickers, whereas the front plate typically only shows the registration sticker.

The last section of the plate consists of letters and numbers which serve as a unique serial for the vehicle to which the plate is registered.


Similar to Germany, the registration plates of France are white, with black characters. They display the EU flag at the bottom left and the letter code F, which indicates that France is where the registration was made.

French plates have three different groups of characters: two letters and three numbers. Each group is divided by a dash.

In France, the final part of the license plate is the blue strip on the right side. This section of blue contains the code and logo for a French region. In France, unlike in Germany, car owners are able to choose the region that will be displayed on their vehicle, regardless of where it is registered.

The Netherlands

In The Netherlands, unlike France and Germany, registration plates are yellow with black letters. The registration plates of The Netherlands still display the EU flag to the left, along with the country code NL. This is used to indicate that the country of registration is The Netherlands.

The format of the characters on Dutch car license plates is determined by their year of registration. Can view the complete list here.


Spanish registration plates have a white background with black characters, and the EU flag is displayed on the left side. The country code “E” is also displayed, indicating that the vehicle was registered in Spain.

In Spain, the format of the registration plate is 7 characters. The first 4 are numbers, and the last three are letters. As an example, 1234 BBB. In Spain, only consonants are displayed on license plates (except for the letter Q).

The characters on Spanish license plates do not have any meaning that indicates the region or place of registration. The plates are assigned to vehicles registered in Spain according to the order they were registered. The current system started with the registration “0000 BBB” and will expire once a vehicle has been registered with “9999 ZZZ.”


In Ireland, vehicle registration plates are either made from metal or plastic. They feature black characters on a background of white. The plate shows the EU flag to the left of a number plate. It also displays the county in Ireland where the car is registered on top and IRL on the left side.

Irish registration plates use the format AAA-BBCCCCCC.

The first three characters (AAA) on an Irish registration plate indicate the year of registration (rather than that the vehicle was built). The second set of characters (BB) denotes the county where the vehicle was registered in Ireland. The final group (C) is composed of one to six characters that represent the serial numbers of vehicles registered in Ireland for the given year.

When do you need a NEW vehicle registration?

You can drive your car in the country that you visit if you’re traveling to Europe for a brief period. This information can be found on the official website of the country that you are visiting.

Traveling from the UK

The gov.UK site details the official UK legislation about what documents you must carry when driving abroad and what signs you must display on your car to be able to drive legally.

You should have one of the following documents in your vehicle if you are taking your car to the EU for a period of less than 12 months:

  • If you have a vehicle logbook (V5C), please use it.
  • A VE103 is required to prove that you are allowed to drive your leased or hired vehicle abroad.

When driving an overseas vehicle registered in the UK, you must display the UK identifier.

You do not require a UK sticker if your number plate has the UK identifier (also called the Union Jack) and the Union Flag.

If your vehicle’s number plate contains any of the following, then you must display a UK sticker on the rear.

  • A GB identifier and the Union Flag
  • a Euro symbol
  • A national flag of England or Scotland
  • Numbers and letters only, no flag or identifier

It is important to note that, in certain countries, such as Spain, Cyprus, or Malta, it’s a legal requirement for you to display the UK sticker, no matter what your number plate says.

You will most likely need to display a different registration plate on your car if you plan to import your vehicle into a country for an extended period of time or if you decide to move permanently. To apply for new registration plates, you will need to register the vehicle in the new country with the appropriate authority.

Check if the registration number is for you or your car. In France, the registration number on a car stays there for its entire life. In this situation, the new owner of a car will have to register ownership and retain the registration number.

Ask the local authority of the country where your vehicle is registered to double-check if a registration plate belongs to you or your vehicle.

What else do I need to register my vehicle?

You will most likely need to present a Certificate for Conformity in order to register your car. A European Certificate of Conformity certifies that a vehicle complies with EU transportation regulations. Most EU countries will require a Certificate Of Conformity if you want to register a vehicle that you bought abroad.

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