European License Plates
This article will cover topics related to purchasing a European license plate, address if they are legal in the United States, and how to mount them to your vehicle.
This article will answer questions around the following questions:
What are European license plates?
Are European plates legal in the United States?
Where can I get a European license plate?
How do I put on a European plate?
Why do some cars have European License Plates?
License plates, also known as vehicle registration plates, are metal or plastic plates attached to motor vehicles for identification purposes. The plates consist of either a numeric or alphanumeric code, stored in the country’s database. Most countries in Europe have plates that fit the requirements in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, stating that cross-border European cars need to display a recognizable code for the county of registration on the rear of the vehicle. Examples of this can be, the flag or national state emblem, coat of arms of the country, or the economic organization the country belongs to, like the European Union (EU).
In the instance of the EU flag, it would be the EU flag above the country code that issued the registration. A country code is simply a string of numbers or letters directly linked to a specific country to indicate where the vehicle originated. Changing the background color is another method countries will use to differentiate where vehicles are from. Some have gone as far to reduce the risk of duplicating registration numbers in other countries and use the following methods:
Moldova uses combinations of three letters followed by three digits
Spain uses a four-number three-letter combination (0000 RRR) that avoids vowels and some confusing consonants (Q for example)
Denmark uses two letters and five digits and has a red border around the plate
Germany and Estonia use identifiers at the beginning of the number plate to indicate which city the vehicle was registered in (ex. “M” is Munich)
Bulgaria follows the following format A[A]-0000-AA
In the UK, they use a number system based on where the car was first registered and the date of registration. The first letter stands for the region, followed by the city, and the following two numbers indicate the time period the vehicle was registered:
C: Wales (region)
A: Cardiff (city)
52: Registered between September 2002 to February 2003 (time period)
Most European countries issue registration plates with the following dimensions:
520 x 110 mm (20.5 x 4.3 inches)
520 x 120 mm (20.5 x 4.7 inches)
A few Euro plate outliers are:
Finland 440 x 120 mm (17.3 x 4.7 inches)
Monaco 260 x 110 mm (10.2 x 4.3 inches)
Italy (front plates only) 360 x 110 mm (14.1 x 4.3 inches)
Can you get a used European License plate in the USA?
European license plates are considered vanity plates used purely for decoration, and not actual vehicle registration purposes. That being said, you can buy a custom European license plate no matter where you live in the USA, but whether you can place them on your vehicle is determined by the state-mandated registration guidelines. Certain states like New York require drivers to have both a front and back license plate to legally drive on the roadways. Other states like Florida, only need a rear license plate, so their drivers have the option to place a personalized vanity plate, like a European license plate on their front bumper. For more information on front license plates, read our other article Do I need a front license plate and how do you mount it?.
Regardless of if you drive a Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, or Hyundai, if you’re curious about getting a custom European-style plate in the USA, check out Custom European Plates for more information. They have high-quality specialty German license plates and Great Britain plates with custom text included. Custom European Plates makes all of their frames to be universal (fit all vehicles) and fit any vehicle. The background color of the plates is typically white, but if you would like to alter it, let them know. There are a few notes on how to accommodate curved bumpers on the site.
A Chrome frame is not recommended for curved bumpers
Stainless steel frame not recommended for curved bumpers
Other places to buy European license plates:
How do you to Mount a European License Plate To Your vehicle?
If you have a European license plate and you’re unsure where to start, here are a few pointers on how to mount the license plate frame.
License plate: Mounting with a Frame
Remove the lower clip from the frame by pulling from the center
If you are using screws
Remove plastic washers
Use plastic washers as the screws for the holes indicated on your bumper
If using the 3M Dual Lock Kit
Clean bumper from any dust or dirt
Apply velcro to the back of the frame
Peel off the protective liner of the velcro
Place on the appropriate spot on the bumper
Let sit for 24 hours
Insert plate from the bottom up, until it’s under the clips on the top and sides
Place the lower clip back into the frame
License Plate: Mount Plate Without Frame
If using screws:
Drill holes in the plate to match bumper locations
Corners are typically best
Use the screws that came with the license plate to install the plate onto the bumper
Place screw caps over the top of the screws
If using 3M Dual Lock Kit
Clean dust and dirt off of license plate and bumper
Attach velcro where there are no indentations on the back of the license plate
Peel off protective velcro layer
Place on the bumper in the appropriate location
Let it sit for 24 hours
Registration Seal Application Instructions
It is typical among European style license plates to have an embossed seal on the plates. They usually sit between the letters on the plate indicating the city/region of the vehicle registration. There is no set location for the seals, but for the most authentic placement, that’s what is typically done in Europe.
To apply the Seal:
Ensure the plate is dry and free of dirt
Remove the adhesive liner from the back of the seal
Place the bottom of the sticker on the desired location on the plate
Use a credit card (or something similar) to press down the remainder of the sticker to ensure there are no air pockets underneath
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