The Rules behind the Dutch License Plates

This text contains the rules which are used for composing license plates that are issued in The Netherlands. The original version of this text was written by Dik T. Winter. Contributions to this text were made by Lijnis Nelemans, Frans Angevaare.

Dik Winter now supplies a larger part of information about the Dutch vehicle registration system.



Introduction

The current Dutch license plate scheme is being used since 1951. It consists of six sequences. All sequences contain three pairs of characters and digits.

  1. 2 characters - 2 digits - 2 digits (1951 - 1965)
  2. 2 digits - 2 digits - 2 characters (1965 - 1973)
  3. 2 digits - 2 characters - 2 digits (1973 - Sep 30, 1978)
  4. 2 characters - 2 digits - 2 characters (Oct 1, 1978 - Aug 31, 1991)
  5. 2 characters - 2 characters - 2 digits (Sep 1, 1991 - 1999)
  6. 2 digits - 2 characters - 2 characters (1999 - now)
  7. 2 digits - 3 characters - 1 digit (expected in 2006)

(Date source: Registration Plates of the World by Neil Parker, John Weeks and Reg Wilson) At this moment (1998) cars receive plates from sequence 5. The characters used in the sequences were always limited. From the start the characters C, I, M, O, Q, W and Y were banned. However the M was added somewhere during sequence 1. From sequence 4 onwards the remaining vowels (A, E and U) were removed, the Y was added and the use of M was restricted to motorcycles. In sequence 5 the K and the Y disappeared.

The initial background color of the license plates was blue (white foreground) and this was changed to yellow (black foreground) later on. Army plates always were yellow. The plates expressed both the type of motor vehicle and the time the plate was issued.


Rules used for cars

In all these sequences the number pairs start at 01 and end at 99. When a sequence contains two number pairs the first one starts at 00 so we get 00-01 to 99-99.

Sequence 1
This sequence started with first character N and second character D, G, K, P, T and X in that order. After this the characters P, R, S, T, U, V, X, Z, A, B, D, E, F, G, H, J and M were used as first characters. When this sequence was exhausted, the second character went backwards from Z, V, U, S, R, N, M, L, J, H, F, E, B to A while the first character went back from M, L, J, H, F to E. Certain combinations (first character D) were reserved for older cars that received their plate a long time after they were built.
Sequence 2
The first character started at A and went on alphabetically. The K and the L were not allowed as first character and the B was not allowed as second character.
Sequence 3
As sequence 2.
Sequence 4
A, E, M and U were removed from the set of possible characters and the Y was added to that set. The characters B and V were not allowed as first characters. This sequence progressed in alphabetical order starting with DB-01-BB.
Sequence 5
K and Y were removed from the set of possible characters. The B and V remained prohibited in initial position. This sequence progressed in alphabetical order starting with DB-BB-01.


Rules used for company cars

Examples of company cars are trucks and busses. In all these sequences the number pairs start at 01 and end at 99. When a sequence contains two number pairs the first one starts at 00 so we get 00-01 to 99-99.

Sequence 1
The vehicles were divided in two groups: vehicles narrower than 2.20 meters and vehicles wider than 2.20 meters. Licenses of the narrow vehicles started with N, P, R, S, T, U, V and X and had A, F, J, N, S and V as second character. The license plates of the wider vehicles started with N, P, R, S, T, U, V, X, Z, A and B and had a B as second character. After that the division was lifted and the sequence proceeded with first character Z, A, B and D and second character A, F, J, N, S and V followed by a sequence starting with E, F, G, H, J and M and second character B. The character combinations BE, BH, BL, BR, BU and BZ were reserved for cars that were older than 15 years.
Sequence 2
This sequence proceeded in alphabetical order. The K and the L were not allowed as first character. The second character always was a B.
Sequence 3
As sequence 2.
Sequence 4
A, E, M and U were removed from the set of possible characters and the Y was added to that set. The first character was limited to B and when this sequence was exhausted the first character was V. There were no extra restrictions on the other characters.
Sequence 5
Now the vehicles are divided in vehicles that are weigh less than 3,500 kilos (license plates start with V) and vehicles that are heavier (license plates start with B). The K and the Y were removed from the set of possible characters.


Rules for motorbikes

In all these sequences the number pairs start at 01 and end at 99. When a sequence contains two number pairs the first one starts at 00 so we get 00-01 to 99-99.

Sequence 1
The first character of the plates came from the set N, P, R, S, T, U, V, X, Z. The second character came from the set E, H, L, R, U en Z. The character sequences AM, BM and DM were reserved for bikes that were older than 15 years.
Sequence 2
This sequence was not used for motorbikes.
Sequence 3
This sequence was not used for motorbikes.
Sequence 4
The M is obligatory as the first character in this sequence. This is the only place the M is used in this sequence for any vehicle. This sequence was still being used in February 1995. Concerning the disappearance of the K and the Y in sequence 5 for cars: Dik is not sure if the MY-combination will be used (is the MK-combination being used?).


Rules for army cars

In all these sequences first number pair starts at 00 and the second one at 01. Both number pairs end at 99 so we get 00-01 to 99-99.

Sequence 1
Land force license plates start with K with L, Z, N, O, P, X, R, S, T U or V as second character. Probably the second character indicates the type of vehicle. Marine plates use the combination KM (Koninklijke Marine), air force plates use LM (Luchtmacht) and mobile columns use MC.
Sequence 2
This sequence was not used.
Sequence 3
As sequence 1. This sequence was being used in February 1995.


Special character combinations

Certain character combinations of sequence 1, 2 and 3 were reserved for special vehicles. Almost all special character combinations that are being used now come from sequence 1.

AA
Vehicles from the Royal family. The character combinations is followed by one or two digits.
AF
AFCENT (=Allied Forces CENTral Europe) license plates of sequence 5. Followed by a pair of characters and a pair of digits. Background color yellow; foreground color black.
AFC
AFCENT license plates. Followed by 4 or 5 digits. Background color black; foreground color white.
BN en GN
Vehicles for which the tax is not paid yet. Examples of these are vehicles which are imported on a temporary basis. The character combination is followed by two pairs of two digits. The digits give a more specific description of the vehicle type. When the GN and BN were exhausted in sequence 1, the GN sequence was used in sequence 2.
CD
Corps diplomatique. The character combination is followed by three digits or two pairs of digits. The combination with three digits does not contain a hyphen.
CD-A
High army personnel of AFCENT. Followed by one or two digits. Replaced by the AF sequence.
CD-B
Agricultural embassy personnel. Followed by one or two digits. Replaced by plates of sequence 3 with the character combination CD.
CD-J
International Court of Justice. Followed by one or two digits.
CD-N
High army personnel of AFCENT. Followed by one or two digits.
FH, HA en HF.
Plates belonging to traders and used on vehicles which are part of a trade stock. The character combination is followed by two pairs of digits. The background color of the plates is green and the foreground color is white.
GV
Vehicles used around the border that need a license in the other country but not in The Netherlands. An example of those is a tractor. The character combination is followed by two pairs of digits.
HH
For small motorbikes that drive abroad and need a license. The character combination is followed by 4 or 5 digits. The background color of the plates is white.
RC
AFCENT license plates. Followed by two pairs of digits. Background color black; foreground color white.
ZZ
Vehicles which do not satisfy Dutch vehicle laws and are only allowed to drive because of a specific permit. The character combination is followed by two pairs of digits.

There are some other special license plates that are issued for vehicles that have to drive before they can get an ordinary license plate. These plates are issued in sequence 1 and 3 with 1 instead of 2 characters. The character indicates the province the license plate was issued: A=Friesland, E=Groningen/Drente, H=Overijssel, K=Noord-Holland, L=Zuid-Holland, N=Zeeland, P=Utrecht, S=Gelderland, T=Noord-Brabant and V=Limburg. Apart from these 10 characters there are two more: X is used for temporary plates that are issued by the state and Z is used for export plates that are only valid for one day. Apart from the Z plates, the numbers in the plate indicate the validation date of the plates: 00-01 to 23-99 are valid for 30 days and 24-00 to 99-99 are valid for one day.


Historical notes

Frank Hoogervorst has provided the following historical facts:

The story of the change from sequence 4 to sequence 5 is that the end of the previous series was somewhere in ZX-??-?? because a new company cars sequence VB-BB-01 had to start and people wanted to have two new sequences at the same time. The number DB-BB-01 (the first in the new sequence) was donated to the mayor of Veendam, mr Apotheker and is now on a Peugeot 605. The sequence 5 was expected to be exhausted somewhere in 2005.

The first plate in sequence 4 (ND-00-01) was donated to mr Leyen who was the head of the Dutch organization for traffic safety (Verbond van Verenigingen van Veilig Verkeer). The plate was issued in 1951 and was put on a Ford Taunus

The vowels were omitted in later sequences to avoid the possibility that a plate contained a word. Some consonants were removed from the possible characters as well because they were to similar to other characters: the C, K and Y because of the X and the Q because of the 0 (zero). The 00 (zero zero) combination was not used because it could have been confused with OO (capital characters o).


Main page | Dutch vehicle registration (by Dik Winter)
Last update: November 12, 2006. erikt(at)xs4all.nl