Vehicle registration plates of Sweden are used for most types of vehicles in Sweden. They have three letters first, a space and three digits after. The combination is simply a serial number and has no connection with a geographic location. The last digit is used to show what month the car has to undergo vehicle inspection. Vehicles like police cars, fire trucks, public buses and trolley buses use the same type of plate as normal private cars and cannot be directly distinguished by the plate alone. Military vehicles have special plates.
Ordinary plates have black text on a white background. They consist of three letters first, a space and three digits after. This space was formerly used for a taxation sticker. Above it the vehicle identification number is printed and above the last digit the date of plate manufacture is printed. All vehicles must legally carry both a front and a rear plate except for motorcycles, trailers (rear only), tractors and other off-road machinery (front only). The registration number is tied to the vehicles VIN and remains unchanged, even after change of ownership, until the vehicle is scrapped or exported. So it is possible to decommission a registered vehicle for any length of time. A decommissioned registered vehicle does not require road tax or a valid insurance. The registration plate remains on the vehicle while decommissioned. Registration numbers of scrapped, exported and de-registered vehicles are put in quarantine before they are re-used with new registered vehicles.
The only possible coding to be seen by looking at the plate alone is when the vehicle must undergo inspection. The last digit of the plate denotes this. Note that the months May and June are missing. This is to reduce the number of inspections for the summer months. Vehicles that don't undergo inspection within their period get an automated failure and may not be driven on public roads (only to the inspection or workshop).
|Last digit||Middle of inspection period||Inspection period|
Disallowed letters and combinations
All letters in the Swedish alphabet are used, except the letters I, Q, V, Å, Ä and Ö. 91 letter combinations are not used, since they may be offensive, political or otherwise unsuitable. Examples: APA (monkey), DUM (stupid), FAN (devil, damn), FEG (cowardly), FEL (error, wrong), FUL (ugly), GAY, HOT (threat), LAT (lazy), NRP (Nordiska Rikspartiet), OND (evil), SEX, SUP (snaps), TOA (toilet), UFO, USA, XXL (extra extra large) and many others. Also "WTC 911" was disallowed due to the attacks on World Trade Center (WTC) on 11 September 2001 (911) as well as "WTC 119", because dates are read as day/month in Swedish. The road authority has made the list, which is larger than those in most other countries, to avoid requests to replace issued plate numbers once they are deemed unacceptable, which would cause administrative problems.
Sizes and EU stripe
|Old ordinary plate (last production date 31 dec 2013)||480×111|
|EU stripe plate||520×111||EU stripe|
|"American" plate||300×111||EU stripe|
|Square MC plate||119x155||EU stripe|
Starting in 1994, smaller plates of 30×11 cm were offered for special applications where standard plates would not typically fit, e.g. American domestic market vehicles. These plates are made in a narrower typeface. Up until then large, square plates were used for these applications; however, these were too large height-wise for some American cars, in which case motorcycle plates were issued instead. There is also a self-adhesive plastic 'plate' for use on snowmobiles, ATV's and similar, where the design of the vehicle can make it awkward to fit a real plate. The blue EU stripe was introduced in 2002 as option. As of 1 January 2014 all new manufactured plates have the EU-stripe, and there are no exceptions for old veteran vehicles. Motorcycle owners have often changed plates since it is often hard to find a place for the oval "S"-sticker otherwise needed abroad.
In the middle of the rear plate, a sticker had to be attached to allow driving. This sticker was sent to the owner when the road tax and the liability insurance had been paid and the vehicle had been approved in the inspection. Valid for one year, its colour varied with the year, and the clearly visible month number of expiry could easily be discerned by police. It was introduced in 1973. Since 1 January 2010, the tax sticker was abolished in Sweden, and newer plates have no room for it.
In addition to the ordinary registration plate of three letters and three digits, you may have a personal registration plates. The personal registration plate works as an alias to the ordinary plate and can have (almost) any text or number combination up to seven characters, if it isn't used already. It costs 6000 kr (about 640 €) to get personal number for a vehicle. They are valid for ten years and may be moved to another vehicle. The approval sticker was placed to the left, not in the middle. Text too offensive or illegal is not allowed. For instance, the 64SALE number was not allowed, as the number 6 and the word "sex" are homonyms in the Swedish. A sticker declaring the alias relationship between the ordinary plate and the personal plate must be attached in one of the vehicle's windows. The above-mentioned limitation on allowed letters (I, Q, V, Å, Ä, Ö) do not apply to personal plates.
Dealer plates have black text on a green background. These plates are used on vehicles without registration, insurance and vehicles which have failed inspection. The dealers have reported their car not to be driven, meaning they don't have to pay road tax. Cars can be parked for months awaiting sale. The cars can be used for short test drives with one of these licence plates. Unlike normal Swedish license plates the dealer plate is not tied to any vehicle but to the plate owner. These plates can also be used by car manufacturers to test vehicles. The plate has a sticker indicating if the plate is for cars, trucks or trailers. The plate shows that the owner has a special insurance that covers test drives.
Diplomatic plates have black text on a blue background. They consist of two letters, three serial digits and a last letter. The first two letters shows which diplomatic mission the vehicle belongs to (Letters I and Q not used). The letters don't correspond to any country acronym e.g. American diplomats don't have US as their first two letters. They're ordered by the sovereign states' name in the French language. Thus AA denotes South Africa (i.e. Afrique du Sud). AB denotes Albania (i.e. Albanie) and so forth up until DT. The three digits are just a serial number. The last letter shows what kind of task the diplomat has. The approval sticker was placed last on the right. Just like the personal plates these vehicles have a standard format registration as well, which means a re-registration is not needed if the vehicle changes owner.
Taxi plates have black text on a yellow background. Taxis get yellow plates after they are approved. The plates have the same registration as the car had before it was a taxi. Thus if it isn't used as a taxi anymore, or if the car or the Taximeter fails inspection, the normal plates are put back on and the yellow ones are confiscated. Just like normal plates, taxi plates do not have an approval sticker. Until 1 April 2017, a smaller T indicating "taxi" was printed in the right hand corner (unless it had personal plates, in which case the T was omitted). The T was removed to streamline the manufacturing process, as taxi plates issued after this date solely differ from standard plates by background colour.
Temporary plates have white text on a red background. Used as a temporary registration for import and export. Like the standard plates, it has three letters and three digits, but with an expiry day and month to the left and year to the right. When an imported vehicle has been approved it will get ordinary white plates with the same registration as previously given on red plates.
Military plates have yellow digits on a black background. The licence plates consist of four to six digits and may be used for all kinds of vehicles, from ordinary automobiles to tanks. The 1906 series format is still used. The register and issuing of plates is done by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration thus completely separate from the civilian counterpart.
Until 1973 the plates contained one or two letters and up to five digits. The letters are standardised codes for the counties of Sweden. A second letter (A or B) was used for some counties for which the 5 digits were not enough to cover all vehicles.
The typeface used was not consistent as the vehicle owner bought either a plate or a kit from various dealers, such as petrol stations.
Opposite to many other countries, there were no special codes for police, post or other national services apart from the military. One tradition was that the official vehicle of the governor had the number 1 after the county code, however "A 1" belonged to the king.
These plates were not used after 1974. All vehicles had to replace the plates. There are no historic plates in Sweden and historic cars have to use modern (post-1973) plates. All vehicles over 30 years old and not being used as a commercial vehicle are regarded as "veteran" by the road authority, becoming tax-exempt and only needing to pass vehicle inspection every second year. These vehicles use ordinary plates and approval stickers.
- A, AA, AB - City of Stockholm
- B, BA, BB - Stockholms län
- C - Uppsala län
- D - Södermanlands län
- E, EA - Östergötlands län
- F, FA - Jönköpings län
- G - Kronobergs län
- H - Kalmar län
- I - Gotlands län
- K - Blekinge län
- L, LA - Kristianstads län (today part of Skåne län)
- M, MA, MB - Malmöhus län (today part of Skåne län)
- N - Hallands län
- O, OA, OB - Göteborgs och Bohus län (today part of Västra Götalands län)
- P, PA - Älvsborgs län (today part of Västra Götalands län)
- R - Skaraborgs län (today part of Västra Götalands län)
- S, SA - Värmlands län
- T, TA - Örebro län
- U, UA - Västmanlands län
- W, WA - Kopparbergs län (today Dalarnas län)
- X, XA - Gävleborgs län
- Y - Västernorrlands län
- Z - Jämtlands län
- AC - Västerbottens län
- BD - Norrbottens län
- no letter - military vehicles
After 1973 the format changed to three letters followed by three digits. The typeface was custom made to increase readability, and the plates were made in embossed sheet steel. In January 1984 the plates were changed to plastic with reflective tape on them, still embossed. This caused problems since the tape would wear off and decrease the readability of the plate. In January 1994 a new plate was introduced that was made from a solid piece of plastic, with a customised Helvetica typeface. The issue of these plates was halted quickly when Photoblocker spray paint became popular and on 1 January 2002 they were replaced with embossed aluminium plates clad in 3M reflective film.
Last year the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency raised £67m from the sale of personalised number plates. But why do people still buy them?
Lord Alan Sugar has one: AMS 1. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drove away from their wedding with one that read JU5T WED and broadcaster Chris Evans has several.
But it's not only the rich and famous who buy personalised number plates. Despite the recent economic downturn, they are still big business.
Personalised plates are regularly used in films and television series to hint that a character is a braggart or an egomaniac or just a bit desperate for attention.
In the TV series The Persuaders, international playboy Brett Sinclair, 15th Earl of Marnock, drove an Aston Martin DBS with the number plate BS 1. In the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, the villain had AU 1 on his 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III Sedanca de Ville.
For the thousands of drivers who actually have personalised number plates, they are regarded as a statement of individuality or an investment. To many of the vast majority that don't have one they're an ostentatious waste of cash.
Retired businessman Robert Harverson, from Surrey, paid almost £250,000 for the registration 1 RH in November 2008. He went to the auction in Yorkshire intending to spend between £100,000 and £150,000 but recalls that - once there - he thought: "It's my initials, there's only one, so I've got to keep bidding."
He admits it is a kind of statement but no different to spending a lot on a car or boat.
"I was brought up in a one-bed flat with five of us, hand to mouth. I've worked hard in life so I can buy what I want."
But Harverson's attitude to the plate has shifted slightly. "I don't have any regrets in life but I wouldn't buy it again. In the last five to six years my mindset has changed. I would sell it if the price was right."
Harverson currently owns six private plates and says when he first started buying them they represented good value. "They were an investment, like property, 30 years ago. You'd buy sought-after ones for a few hundred pounds. But in the last 10 years it's become a fad."
Earlier this year, Steve Holden drove 219 miles from his bed and breakfast in Yarm, north-east England, to Oxford to buy HO11 DEN. He went to the auction with a £3,000 mental limit but ended up spending £7,400 to get his hands on the plate. He already owned four others.
Personalised plates have been around for decades but have only been held back for separate sale since 1983. Four styles are available, based on the format of plates issued in different eras:
- Current - AB51 ABC (2001 - present)
- Prefix - A123 ABC (1983 - 2001)
- Suffix - ABC 123A (1963 - 1983)
- Dateless - 1234 AB, or 1 AB (Pre-1963)
Dateless, which can be any combination of up to four numbers, followed by up to three letters - or vice-versa - tend to be the most desirable because they hide a vehicle's age and are only sold at auction.
Plates with age identifiers - such as 62 for 2012, or prefix M for 1994 - can only be used on a vehicle of equal age or newer. People must register with the DVLA to have a new plate put on a vehicle.
Registrations can be transferred to other vehicles - for a fee - but once a car is scrapped the registration cannot be resurrected. You can't rearrange characters or alter them to make them hard to read.
DVLA Registrations - Q&A
"I would kick myself if I let it go and saw it on someone else's car," he says. "Once you've got one, you want to buy better ones. You do get noticed quite a bit but I don't buy them to be noticed. I like them and it's a good investment."
Heather Logan and her husband Gordon own seven, including 33 GL and 33 HL. After hearing GO12 DON was being auctioned in Leeds, they made the trip from their Cleveland home in March. Mrs Logan bought the plate as a birthday present for her husband, paying £8,400. "We think of them as an investment," she says.
"If there's something you want in life, and you can afford it, then why not go out and buy it."
The BBC used freedom of information laws to obtain the 10 most expensive registration plates sold directly by the DVLA, although other plates have reportedly changed hands for larger sums privately.
Topping the DVLA list is 1 D, which was bought for £352,000 in March 2009 by a London-based Lebanese businessman who wanted a birthday present for his wife.
Motoring journalist Quentin Willson says plates fall into two distinct groups. "The number plate market is polarised between the cheesiest, chosen by people with the literary sensibilities of vampire bats, and those that look really quite good, hide the age of your car and can look really quite classic."
"It really is about being visually pleasing. They are great fun but much abused. It seems to have caught the nation's psyche. For a motoring-obsessed nation they are a suburban trinket. A number plate is a form of automotive jewellery. You can either change your car or change your number plate, and changing your number plate is cheaper."
Piers England is an auctioneer from the DVLA's auction company, SMA Vehicle Remarketing. "We call them marmite products - you either love them or hate them," he says.
"It's an expression of your own individuality. What I like about them is that you can have a lot of fun relatively cheaply. It's the ultimate personalisation. I have one."
But they only appeal to a certain type of personality, according to the motoring journalist Mike Rutherford.
"I assume that the person who has a personalised number plate is the person who walks down the street and wants to be noticed. It's a fact, if you have a personalised number plate you are drawing attention to yourself. The police will give you a second look.
"About 20 years ago someone approached me to try and sell me the number plate MR 1 and I couldn't believe he wanted £100,000 for it. You have to think what are you actually getting - I can't think of any worse value for money than a personalised number plate."
Social commentator Peter York says they are going out of fashion. "It's rather an old-fashioned way to show you are a big shot or any kind of shot at all. I think of personalised number plates as a 1970s pop star kind of thing. It's quite corny."
In a period when people can express their personality so easily at no cost it does seem slightly retro.
But Damian Lawson, the DVLA's Personalised Registrations Manager, disagrees. Lawson doesn't own one, but bought A13 XXY for his daughter 12 years ago when she was born and is saving it for when she's old enough to drive.
The DVLA has raised £1.8bn for the Treasury since 1989, in sales through its auctions and website.
People can buy an individual plate online from DVLA Personalised Registrations at any time, and there are just over 39 million registrations currently available. It also holds six auctions a year, with each auction usually consisting of 1,500 handpicked, sought-after combinations with published reserve prices.
Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick University, has studied what determines the price of number plates and concludes it's all about status.
"It's to be high up the perceived monkey pack," he says. "Status brings enjoyable internal feelings and usually better-looking mates. The only surprising thing is how much cash human beings will part with for little combinations of numbers and letters."
"It is true, many people use DVLA number plates and personal registration plates as statements of wealth and status. But, there are also many people who don't have a lot of money who treasure their cars and want to make them really special by having their own personal stamp on them. Some people may want to buy one as an unusual gift for a loved one. Not all personalised plates have to cost thousands and thousands of pounds and they often have great stories and sentiment behind them," said Jason Wilkes, Managing Director at CarReg
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