As the nation that invented the automobile, it is to be expected that Germany were one of the first to introduce number plates. So what makes them different from our plates in the UK? Here’s a quick look at their system of distributing Kraftfahrzeug-Kennzeichen.
Today, when you register a car in Germany, you are given a plate that has four major components.
The first is the regional identifier. This can be up to three letters, depending on the part of Germany the plate was issued. Many regional identifiers relate to cities, such as:
S – Stuttgart D – Düsseldorf M – Munich HH – Hamburg
B – Berlin F – Frankfurt K – Cologne IN – Ingolstadt
However, smaller towns and regions have their own too, such as:
BA – Bamberg LB – Ludwigsburg TÜ – Tübingen WÜ – Würzburg
MD – Magdeburg LEO – Leonberg J – Jena EIH – Eichstätt
The second are seals, or small round stickers. On the rear plate, the top sticker always indicates the last safety check that the car has passed – think of it like our MOTs.The bottom sticker indicates the state of registration (such as Baden-Wurttemberg or Thuringia). On the front plate, only the state of registration is indicated by a sticker.
The third component is either one or two letters, followed by up to four numerals. These are assigned randomly, most of the time. For a small fee, in most states, you can choose to personalise your plate, provided that nobody else has already taken that specific combination. Many people choose to use their initials and date of birth.
For example, Johann Schmidt, who lives in Stuttgart, and was born in 1980, could have the following plate.
S: JS 1980
There are some restrictions on letter and number combinations. Germany’s recent history, specifically in relation to the Nazi state, means that some are totally off limits. These include:
HH – Heil Hitler 88 – H is 8th letter of alphabet, see HH HJ – Hitler Jugend/Youth
NS – National Socialism SS – Schutzstaffel/Shock Troops NPD – Far Right party
AH – Adolf Hitler KZ – Konzentrationlager/Concentration Camp
Additionally, the combinations BUL – LE cannot be used (It’s a derogatory name for the police), MO-RD (Murder) or SU-FF (To be drunk).
So next time you’re on the autobahn, on a German jaunt, remember our guide and see what you can tell about the driver, based on their plate! Auf wiedersehen!
Germans may not have all that much choice when it comes to personalising their number plates, but here in the UK, we do – why not browse our enormous collection of plates, with thousands of names, dates, initials and words?