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All About Different Types of Vehicle Number Plates in India

Updated On Oct 15, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide on the Various Types of Vehicle Number Plates in India

Vehicles of all shapes and sizes zoom by on India's busy streets and fast-moving motorways, each with its own unique number plate. These licence plates are more than just identifiers; in fact, they can be badges of honour, symbols of power, and even indications of exclusivity.

Let's take a closer look at the fascinating world of India's many car number plate designs and understand what they signify. So next time when you are out buying a new vehicle, do remember what different number plates represent.

Automobile Licence Plates: The Silent Identity Symbols

In the larger story of traffic safety and vehicle laws in India, licence plates are a small but important detail.

A vehicle registration plate / licence plate / number plate is issued by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) of the respective state and is attached to the front and rear portion of the vehicle for clear visibility. These plates, which are attached to the front and back of cars, act as distinctive identifiers and provide a wealth of information about the car, including its registration details, status, and class.

Please Note: The international code for India is IND.

All About Different Types of Vehicle Number Plates in India

In India, you would notice the following types of number plates - 

  • White Number Plate

Owner Type: Private Individual Owner

Roads in India are frequently graced with the elegant black letters on a white number plate. This licence plate is associated with private automobiles, which are automobiles owned by individuals and not utilised for business / commercial purposes such as carrying passengers or carrying goods from one place to another.

  • Yellow Licence Plate

Owner Type: Private Commercial Owner

The number plate with a yellow background and black or dark blue lettering represents the commercial vehicles that are used to carry out goods/ passenger movement. Whether they are trucks that move cargo between states or taxis that take you across the city, these are vehicles that have registered themselves to serve the people.

  • Yellow letters on a black number plate

Owner Type: Private Rental

This is a colour reversal: a black backdrop with yellow text. If you see a licence plate with this combination, it's probably a rental car. Yes, you can rent these cars for self-driving purposes.

  • Red Licence Plate: 

Owner Type: New Owner (Vehicle Unregistered)

The red plate has a unique colour that makes it stand out among the other number plates. This licence plate shows that the car hasn't been registered yet. This red plate, which is typically seen on brand-new cars, contains the vehicle's information and signals the start of the journey on Indian highways.

  • The Blue Number Plate

Owner Type: Foreign Diplomats

This number plate, distinguished by its light blue backdrop and white writing, belongs to foreign diplomats or international agencies. These number plates have alphabets such as UN (United Nations), CC (Consular Corps), DC (Diplomatic Corps) etc. These licence plates do not have a state code but rather contain the country code of the diplomat.

Below are country codes of some of the countries - 






Great Britain










United States



  • The Green Number Plate: 

Owner Type: Private Electric/ Hybrid Owners

The cars with this licence plate are the electric and hybrid cars that have embraced environmentally friendly technologies. 

  • Special Number Plates

Owner Type: Indian Military Services

Going farther into the realm of licence plates, we come across the magnificent collection of unique licence plates that are only available to the Indian Military Forces. These licence plates honour the bravery and dedication of our armed forces with their distinctive combinations and insignias. The unique licence plates of the Army, Navy, and Air Forces each attest to their commitment to and devotion to the country.

  • High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP): The Authenticity Mark

Owner Type: All

The adoption of High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP) is an important milestone in the developing landscape of automobile regulations. The purpose of these uniformly patterned plates with improved security features is to reduce car theft and promote a safer driving environment. These number plates, which have a permanent identifying number laser-branded and a hologram based on chromium, are bringing in a new era of road safety and security.

  • Customised Number Plates: The Exclusive Lane

Owner Type: All

We are referring to fancy or personalised licence plates. These allow people to choose from a variety of unusual combinations that can symbolise their initials, lucky numbers, or distinctive patterns. Even though this category welcomes a personal touch, it's crucial to follow the law and make sure no false impressions are given since that can attract fines.

  • Bharat Series Number Plates

Owner Type: All

The Ministry of Transport has introduced a new number series denoted by the letter 'BH'. A vehicle with this number plate would allow Indian individuals to transport their vehicles from one state to another without having to go through the time-consuming and inconvenient procedure of changing the number plate.

Laws Related to Number Plates in India

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 regulate the registration and display of vehicle number plates in India. In order to maintain uniformity and to make tracking and identification of vehicles easier, these rules specify the requirements for vehicle number plates.

High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP)

The Indian Government has required all new cars to have HSRPs since 2005. This reduces car theft and makes tracking simpler. The plates have a number of security features, such as:

  • Tamper-proof design: The HSRP is made with snap-proof locks that are neither reusable nor detachable, preventing abuse, or tampering with the plate. 
  • Laser branding or Unique PIN: To enable rapid and simple vehicle verification, each HSRP has a unique PIN that is laser branded onto the plate. 
  • Chromium-based Hologram: To verify the legitimacy of the plate, a chromium-based hologram is put to the upper left corner of the plate. 
  • Retro-Reflective Sheet: A unique kind of retro-reflective sheet is used in the construction of the plate, guaranteeing legible visibility even in low light. 

Typography and Colour Coding

Standard font and colour coding are used on the number plates to distinguish different vehicle kinds. These have been discussed in the previous section. 

Font and Numbering Scheme

In India, car number plates have a particular structure that consists of an alpha-numeric code that provides information about the vehicle, such as the state and district of registration, a distinct serial number, and, in certain situations, a letter code that denotes the registration series. 

Exhibiting Number Plates

Vehicles are required by law to show the registration number on both the front and the back. The specifications set forth by the authorities should be followed regarding the number plate’s size, colour and type. Keeping the number plate clean and visible at all times is also required.

Sanctions for Infractions

Penalties for breaking the law governing number plates include fines, and in extreme situations, jail time. This could involve failing to use or display the number plate correctly, or it could involve using any fancy number plates that do not follow the format requirements. 

Utilisation and Publication

The Regional Transport Office (RTO) in the relevant state or union territory normally handles the application for a new registration plate. Owners of the vehicle may register for the HSRP at the time of registration or through specific suppliers that the transport office has authorised. 

Steering Towards a Final Remark

As this thrilling voyage comes to a conclusion, we learn that number plates on cars in India are more than just metal plates; they are canvases that convey stories about exclusivity, sustainability, individuality, and service. The history of number plates is colourful, varied, and enlightening, spanning from the typical person's white plate to the green symbol of environmental consciousness.

Thus, the next time you're outside and a car speeds by, stop and look at the licence plate. You'll see more than just a string of characters and numbers—you'll see a narrative that speaks to the lively and dynamic story of road culture in India.

These number plates serve as subtle but powerful symbols of identification in the dynamic story of Indian roadways, attesting to the country's development, goals, and dedication to promoting an inclusive, sustainable, and safe culture. They are more than just legal requirements; they are representations of a nation in motion, moving towards a future that offers development, peace, and creativity.


  1. What is the significance of the colour scheme on vehicle number plates in India?

The colour scheme on vehicle number plates in India helps in quickly identifying the type and purpose of the vehicle. For instance, a white plate indicates a private vehicle, while a yellow plate signifies a commercial vehicle. Each colour combination holds its own significance, depicting whether a vehicle is a private car, a commercial transport, a rental, an electric vehicle, or belongs to a special category like the armed forces or foreign diplomats.

  1. What is a High Security Registration Plate (HSRP), and why was it introduced?

An HSRP is a uniform pattern of number plates introduced by the Indian government to enhance vehicle security. These plates come with several security features, including a chromium-based hologram, a laser-branded permanent identification number, and non-removable snap-on locks, helping to curb vehicle theft and counterfeit plates.

  1. Can individuals personalise their vehicle number plates in India?

Yes, individuals can personalise their vehicle number plates in India. However, they must adhere to the legal framework and guidelines issued by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) to ensure that the personalised number does not mislead or mimic any official number plate category.

  1. What does a green number plate signify?

A green number plate in India signifies that the vehicle is either an electric vehicle (EV) or a hybrid vehicle. This is a move to promote eco-friendly vehicles and distinguish them clearly on the road, encouraging a transition to greener automotive technologies and reducing the carbon footprint.

  1. Why do vehicles of foreign diplomats have blue number plates, and what information does it contain?

Vehicles of foreign diplomats and international organisations have blue number plates to signify their diplomatic status and to extend certain privileges and immunities accorded by international laws. These plates typically contain the code of the country the diplomat represents, a special code assigned to the diplomat, and a unique identification number.

  1. Are there specific number plates for vehicles belonging to the Indian Armed Forces?

Yes, vehicles belonging to the Indian Armed Forces have specific number plates. The army, navy, and air force have distinct number plates denoting their respective branches, allowing for quick identification and according a mark of respect and recognition to the services.

  1. What is the significance of a red number plate on a vehicle?

A red number plate indicates that the vehicle is yet to be registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO). It is generally found on new vehicles and showcases the details of the dealer. This is a temporary marker used until the vehicle gets its permanent registration number.

  1. How are commercial vehicles and rental vehicles differentiated through number plates?

Commercial vehicles have a yellow number plate with black or dark blue lettering, indicating that they are registered to provide services or transport goods. On the other hand, rental vehicles have a black number plate with yellow lettering, denoting that they are available for rent for self-driving.

  1. Can I switch from a regular number plate to a High Security Registration Plate (HSRP)?

Yes, vehicle owners can switch from a regular number plate to a High Security Registration Plate (HSRP). It is encouraged to enhance the security features of your vehicle and adhere to the evolving standards set by the transport department.

  1. What are the penalties for not adhering to the prescribed number plate formats?

Not adhering to the prescribed number plate formats can result in penalties, including fines and potential legal action. It is deemed a serious offence as it compromises the identification system that facilitates law enforcement and road safety. Always ensure your vehicle's number plate complies with the legal requirements and standards established by the authorities.


This article is issued in the general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.

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