Demystifying Spanish Number Plates
In Andalucia, you see them every day, but have you ever thought about why vehicle number plates have their particular sequences of numbers? Here we explain.
Spanish 'ordinary' vehicle number plates, featuring the European logo on the left (the circle of yellow stars on a blue background) with a white "E" for España (Spain) underneath, were launched in 2000.
The alpha-numeric format itself also follows an EU standard. The issue is national and not regional, and comprises four numbers followed by three letters. They are sequential and issued on a national basis, unlike the old regional system with the first two letters of the province (SE for Seville, MA for Malaga etc).
No vowels (A, E, I, O, U) are used in the letters part of the registration. Thus, the first number plate in September 2020 was not '0000 AAA' but '0000 BBB'. Certain consonants are not issued either - Q, Ñ, LL and CH - to avoid confusion.
Approximate date of car registration
The list below gives the registration month of the first vehicles in each sequential series, by alphabetical letter.
You can tell when a vehicle was registered by looking at the first of the three letters.
The exact date when the first number plates in this format were issued was 18 September 2000.
nnnn BBB - September 2000
nnnn CBB - October 2002
nnnn DBB - September 2004
nnnn FBB - May 2007
nnnn GBB - May 2008
nnnn HBB - December 2010
nnnn JBB - November 2014
nnnn KBB - June 2017
nnnn LBB - June 2019
nnnn MBB - September 2022
When the series was launched, the DGT (Departamento Général de Trafico) said that it would last for 40 years. This seems correct, as it has taken 22 years to reach halfway through the series.
Historic provincial number plates
Vehicles registered before 18 September 2000 have a registration beginning with the two-letter code for the province. The format was 'SE 1234 NN' or 'MA 1234 NN': one or two letters for the province code (here Seville and Malaga); four numbers; and two sequential letters.
Before 1970, the number plates were simply one or two letters for the province and up to six sequential numbers, eg SE 123456 or MA 123456 or J 123456.
The provincial system had its uses: a car from another province was probably travelling to a destination other than home or work, and might well be unfamiliar with the road.
The province is a Spanish administrative demarcation recognised in the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and whose origin dates back to the territorial division of Spain in 1833. There are currently a total of fifty provinces and two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.
Andalucian province alpha codes
- HU = Huelva
- SE = Seville
- CO = Cordoba
- J = Jaen
- CA = Cadiz
- MA = Malaga
- GR = Granada
- AL = Almeria
Andalucian province number codes
Although unrelated to number plates, there is also a set of two-digit Spanish province codes published by the INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadística) and used by most government departments. Correos, the Spanish postal service, also uses these numbers as the first two digits of the five-digit postal codes. The origin is an alphabetical order of the names of the provinces in Spanish.
- 04 = Almeria
- 11 = Cadiz
- 14 = Córdoba
- 18 = Granada
- 21 = Huelva
- 23 = Jaén
- 29 = Málaga
- 41 = Seville
Special government number plates
There are additional number plate series for government forces.
PGC 123456B - Guardia Civil
CNP 123456B - National Police
ET 123456 - Army
EA 123456 - Air Force
EN 123456 - Navy
MMA 123456 - Maritime Authority
Coloured number plates
The Spanish ordinary number plates are black letters on a white background. There are also coloured number plates as follows.
White letters on Blue background - Taxi and private hire with driver vehicles (VTP) such as Uber.
Black letters on red background - Large trailers for lorries.
White letters on red background - Diplomatic vehicles. There are other diplomatic versions as well.
White letters on green background - Temporary number plates for individuals, such as an recently imported car.
White letters on red background - Temporary number plates for companies.
Red letters on white background - Quad bikes and agricultural vehicles.
Black letters on yellow background - Mopeds and other vehicles up to 50cc.