German License Plate
German car number plates show the place where the car carrying them is registered. Whenever German citizens change their main place of residence in Germany, they are required to buy new number plates. Number plates can be bought which are valid all year round or between 2 to 11 months within any 12 months.
The present German number plate format has been in use since 1994. As with many plates for countries within the European Union, a blue strip on the left shows a shortened country code in white text (D for Deutschland = Germany) and the Flag of Europe (12 golden stars forming a circle on a blue background).
The rest of the license plate uses black print on a white background. Just after the country code strip is a one, two or three letter abbreviation, which represents the city or region where the car was registered, such as B for Berlin. These letters usually coincide with the German districts.
The number of letters in the city/region prefix code mostly reflects the size of the district. The basic idea was to even out the number of digits on all license plates, because the largest districts would have more digits after the prefix for more cars. The largest German cities generally only have one letter codes (B=Berlin, M=Munich, K=Cologne (Köln), F=Frankfurt, L=Leipzig, S=Stuttgart), most other districts in Germany have two or three letter codes. Therefore, cities or districts with fewer letters are generally assumed to be bigger and more important.
After the location name there are the emission test and vehicle safety test stickers, followed by one or two usually random letters and one to four usually random numbers. The total quantity of letters and numbers on the plate is never higher than eight.
For an extra charge car owners can also buy personalized plates. Car owners can simply choose the numbers or letters instead of the random ones at the end, provided of course they are unique and not a prohibited combination. For example, people living in the town of Pirna might choose PIR-AT 77, "Pirat" being the German for "pirate".