In India, so many vehicles run on the roads with different engine types, fuel types and even different number plates. Did you know, the different types of number plates carry distinctive meanings depending on the type of vehicle. In India, a number plate or vehicle registration plate is issued by the Regional Transport Office or the RTO of the respective state. Every vehicle needs to attach it to the front and rear portion of the vehicle with clear visibility. The international code for Indian number plates is IND. Let’s take a deeper look at what the different number plates in India mean and how their usage affects them.

Types of Number Plates in India

The Different types of number plates for Indian vehicles include;

White Number Plate

White number plates come with black lettering and are the most common type of vehicle registration plate for vehicles in India. The vehicles with white number plates are personal cars or vehicles used for private purposes. These cannot be used for commercial purposes or transporting goods and passengers. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by common citizens.

Green Number Plate

The latest technology has helped bring in the option of eco-friendly vehicles in the form of electric automobiles. These are non-fuel vehicles and have a green number plate. These can be employed for both personal and commercial usage. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by electric vehicle owners.

Yellow Number Plate

The yellow number plates with a black text pattern are used for commercial purposes only. These are vehicles that have permits to transport goods across the country. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by commercial drivers.

Black Number Plate

Vehicles with black number plates are generally associated with luxury hotel transport. Moreover, these can also be used as commercial vehicles. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by rental vehicle drivers.

Red Number Plate

The red number plate on a vehicle indicates it is a brand new car and represents a temporary vehicle registration plate waiting to get a permanent plate to be issued by the RTO. Though some states do not allow temporary registration vehicles to drive on roads there are temporary vehicles which come with a registration validity of one month. Red coloured number plates with white alpha-numerals that are used on brand-new cars usually stay with the vehicle manufacturer or dealer only.

Number Plate with Upward-Pointing Arrow

The number plates with upward-pointing arrows belong to the military vehicle - registered under the Ministry of Defence. The upward-pointing arrows of such types of license plates are known as Broad Arrows which have been used in many parts of the British Commonwealth. This number plate also indicates the year of military vehicle procurement year, base code, serial number and even the class of the vehicle. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by military officials.

Red Number Plate with the Emblem of India

Many temporary registered vehicles come with the emblem of India branded in golden colour. Such number plates get used on vehicles driven by the President of India or the Governors of respective states.

Blue Number Plate

Blue-coloured number plates with white letters apply to vehicles reserved for foreign diplomats. Such number plates have indications such as DC - Diplomatic Corps, CC - Consular Corps or UN - United Nations. Such license plates do not bear any state code but instead come with the country code of the diplomat. Blue-coloured number plates get used on vehicles driven by foreign delegates or ambassadors.

Reading a Number Plate

You may have noticed; every vehicle has a number plate consisting of a combination of alphanumeric characters. However, it is not easy to decipher it unless you know the components and their meaning. Let’s take an example to understand better.

Say the vehicle registration number is DL01AB4567. So, the first part of a number plate is the first two letters, which here is 'DL'. It denotes the state or union territory in which the vehicle is registered like DL means Delhi. The next part of a licence plate denotes the state or union territory code which here is 01. It is the RTO code of the place where the vehicle is registered. 

To know the RTO codes of different states you can visit the RTO website and verify. The third part of the number plate is a unique code, an alphanumeric code which every vehicle has. The combination can vary. It typically comprises four digits and two alphabets. Like here it is AB4567. A number plate also reflects an IND logo which denotes the international registration code for India. Such a logo is usually found on all High-Security Registration Plates.

Number Plates Rules and Laws in India

To understand what a vehicle number plate is, its meaning and its classification, let’s take a brief look at the main rules and regulations that need to be followed relating to number plates on vehicles in India.

  • The registration number lettering has to be in black on white background for two-wheelers or light motor vehicles
  • Commercial vehicles need to have a number plate in black on yellow background
  • The number plate lettering size needs to be as per the given rules for each vehicle category as per the RTO
  • All motor vehicles should have their number plate displayed at the front as well as the rear and should be clearly visible
  • The registration mark needs to be displayed in parallel to the handlebar on any vehicle part like for example, the mudguard; especially for two-wheeler vehicles
  • All transport vehicles need to display the rear number plate on the right side at one meter from ground level
  • All transport vehicles must paint the registration mark on the left and right sides of the vehicle
  • In the case of stage and contract carriage vehicles,the paint of the registration number needs to be on the dashboard,especially for a taxi or motor cab
  • All alphabets on the number plate need to be in English and numbers need to be in Arabic numerals only
  • In case of less space, the number can be displayed on the plate in a single line at the front of all motor vehicles and two-wheelers else they generally come in two lines
  • Any vehicle number plate must not display fancy lettering, pictures or names.
  • It is not allowed and considered an offence to drive a brand-new motor vehicle with a paper-printed temporary registration number plate
  • All temporary number plates need to have red lettering with a yellow background
  • The characters on any vehicle number plate cannot be in regional languages
  • As per the rules, the size, thickness and spacing between the characters on the number plate need to be 65 mm, 10 mm and 10 mm, respectively for all motor vehicles except two-wheelers and three-wheelers
  • The Four-wheeler number plates need to have one cm green colour layer and stickers as per the fuel type. Like diesel vehicles need to have orange colour stickers while petrol and CNG vehicles must have a blue colour sticker

Process for Procurement Of Vehicle Number Plate

The process of procuring a number plate for a vehicle involves certain steps which need to be followed. When a new vehicle is purchased, the dealer generally takes care of the vehicle registration and number plate procurement process. However, there is an option to register a new vehicle yourself as well. Let’s look at the steps in the process for procurement of vehicle number plate;

Step 1: Visit the RTO with your newly purchased vehicle

Step 2: Make sure to submit all the forms and documents duly filed

Step 3: The RTO official shall then verify all the forms and documents submitted

Step 4: Next make payment of the road tax and the registration fee

Step 5: The vehicle and documents shall be verified by an inspecting officer

Step 6: After successful completion of the inspection, the RTO will issue the registration number as well as give the receipt

Now, we all know that all motorised vehicles running on Indian roads need to have a valid RTO registration and license number plate. We are also clear on the different types of number plates as per the colour. So, now make sure you apply for your vehicle registration number plate with all the knowledge and can also make out any vehicle number plate with ease. Remember, any vehicle running on Indian roads without a number plate shall incur a penalty in terms of a hefty fine.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Let's take a look at some frequent queries on Number Plates in India: Types and Usages;

Q1. Which alphabet cannot be used in the RTO series?

Alphabets O and I are excluded from the RTO series to avoid confusion as they may look similar to numbers like 0 and 1.

Q2. Are custom number plates for vehicles allowed?

As per rules and regulations of number plates for vehicles, the usage of fancy fonts, stickers, regional language, stickers or art is not allowed. Hence, it is not allowed to customise number plates for any vehicles.

Q3. What type of number plate needs to be used for vehicles that run on Indian roads?

Only High-Security Number Plate – HSRPis mandatory as per the Central Motor Vehicles Rule, 1989 across the country

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