Unlike so many other countries, the Netherlands do not have a license plate number system based on region. Reading a Dutch car plate tells you nothing of where it is from. But if you understand the system, you can tell the car’s age. This indeed means Dutch license plates belong to a car, not to a person.

Standard Dutch license plates come in two colours. The older ones (pre 1977) are dark blue or black with white numbers and letters, the current ones are yellow with black numbers and letters. They always consist of a 2-2-2 combination, with either both letters or both numbers in pairs. The Dutch started with two numbers-two numbers-two letters in 1965. Only the letters A, B, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, N, P, R, S, T, U, V, X and Z were used, in chronological order. So 11-22-BC is older than 11-22-BD. Here’s an overview of the development of combinations through time:

  • 11-22-DD 2 numbers – 2 numbers – 2 letters: from 1965.
  • 11-DD-22 2 numbers – 2 letters – 2 numbers: from 1973.
  • DD-11-EE 2 letters – 2 numbers – 2 letters: from 1978.
  • DD-EE-11 2 letters – 2 letters – 2 numbers: from 1991.
  • 11-DD-EE 2 numbers – 2 letters – 2 letters: from 1998.

This will cover about 90% of all Dutch license plates. I will try to give an overview of the exceptions as well:

The Dutch royal family have their own system. All license plates starting with AA are issued on behalf of the Oranges.

The license plates starting with CD are Corps Diplomatique. Not only are these ambassadors and staff, but also members of the International Court of Justice, NATO officers, and ‘exceptional foreign representatives’.

The army has its own system, which can be recognized by any of the KL KZ KN KO KP KX KR KS KT KU KV starting letters. The most common stand for Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Army), Koninklijke Marine (Royal Navy), and Mobile Colonnes.

Apart from the yellow models, there are other colours indicating special traffic. For caravans and other trailers, a white number plate is obligatory. Taxis carry blue license plates (so they can be distinguished from illegal cabs) and car traders have permission to use green plates.

Newest regulations stipulate that number plates should be 52 by 11 centimetres. They should include a thin blue column on the left with the mark NL (which is the international country code for the Netherlands) and the EU symbol.

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