Most cars that we see on the road have their distinct black licence plates on their front and back displaying their vehicle registration number. This uniformity is not by chance, but in accordance with Singapore’s Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Registration and Licensing) Rules.
But, every now and then, we may see a car with a different coloured licence plate whizz by us, and wonder what they mean. We found ourselves in a similar situation, and here’s what we found.
There are seven types of vehicles in Singapore; and they can be differentiated by the colour of their licence plates. Vehicle owners must display their licence plates correctly, or be fined up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to 3 months.
Source: One Motoring
#1 Standard Vehicles
Standard vehicles, or most of the vehicles that we see on the road, must display their Vehicle Registration Number (VRN) on a black background with white lettering.
However, if the licence plate is made of a reflective material, there is an exception for cars to use a grey or yellow background with black letterings.
So, private cars that have a licence plate with a black background and white letterings are similar to those that display licence plates with grey or yellow backgrounds and black letterings.
Read Also: Cheapest Cars That You Can Buy In Singapore
#2 Off Peak Cars
The off peak car scheme was introduced to reduce traffic during peak hours. These cars can be recognised by their red licence plates with white letterings.
There are three types of off peak cars in Singapore, i) Weekend Car (WEC); ii) Off Peak Car (OPC); and iii) Revised Off Peak Car (ROPC). However, cars can only be registered under the Revised Off Peak Car scheme today.
The other two are older off peak car schemes. The different schemes have differing usage hours. Existing cars under the two older schemes will remain within their respective schemes unless they are converted to the ROPC scheme.
(i.e. off peak cars cannot be driven)
|Weekend Car (WEC)/ Off Peak Car (OPC)||Revised Off Peak Car (ROPC)|
|Mondays to Fridays, excl Public Holidays||7am to 7pm||7am to 7pm|
|Saturdays, excl Public Holidays||7am to 3pm||No restriction|
|Sundays||No restriction||No restriction|
|Eve of 5 Public Holidays in Singapore
– Eve of New Year’s Day
– Eve of Chinese New Year
– Eve of Hari Raya Puasa
– Eve of Deepavali
– Eve of Christmas Day
|7am to 3pm||No restriction|
|Public Holidays||No restriction||No restriction|
To drive such cars during their restricted hours in a day, drivers need to get an Electronic Day (e-Day) Licence, which costs $20 a day. If the car is driven without an e-Day Licence, drivers have until 11.59pm the next day to buy an e-Day Licence. Following this, drivers have 3 more days to make a declaration to LTA and pay a $30 fee. Otherwise, drivers may be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences.
#3 Vintage and Classic Cars
Cars, and motorcycles and scooters, that are at least 35 years old from its original registration date can be registered under the Classic Vehicle Scheme. Older vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1940 can be registered under the Vintage Vehicle Scheme.
These vehicles can be easily identified by its conspicuous red and yellow background licence plate with white letterings.
There are also usage restrictions on such vehicles. Classic cars can also be driven for 45 days in a calendar year, including weekend and public holidays – with a Day Licence displayed each time. Owners will get 28 free Day Licences each year, and can buy another up to 17 Day Licences, at $20 a day, each year.
There are three Vintage Vehicle Schemes, with differing usage restrictions.
Vintage (Normal) Vehicle Scheme
There is no usage restriction, and no Day Licences need to be displayed.
Vintage (Restricted) Vehicle Scheme
Owners can only drive these vehicles up to 28 days in a calendar year, including weekends and public holidays, displaying a valid Day Licence. Owners can buy up to 28 Day Licences, at $10 a day, at the LTA Customer Service Centre at 10 Sin Ming Drive.
Revised Vintage Vehicle Scheme
Owners can only drive these vehicles up to 45 days in a calendar year, including weekends and public holidays, displaying a valid Day Licence. Owners can buy up to 28 Day Licences at $10 a day, and subsequently 17 Day Licences at $20 a day, at the LTA Customer Service Centre at 10 Sin Ming Drive.
#4 Research and Development Vehicles
Research and Development cars that are being tested will have a very unique blue and yellow licence plate that is diagonally separated.
#5 Hazmat Vehicles
These vehicles display their licence plates prominently on a bright orange background with black lettering. They may transport hazardous materials.
#6 Pulau Ubin Scheme Vehicles
For those who may have been to Pulau Ubin recently, we may remember vehicles displaying a different type of licence plate – with green background and white letterings. From 2001, all vehicles kept on Pulau Ubin must be registered under the Pulau Ubin Vehicle Scheme (PU Scheme).
#7 Restricted Use Vehicles
Vehicles carrying the restricted use licence plates are only registered for use within certain approved areas, such as Singapore Changi Airport, Sentosa Island, the Zoo and others.
They too carry a distinct green and red background licence plate with white letterings. As we can see in the example below, they also carry an “RU” prefix.
Singapore Car Licence Plates Follow Different Index Series
Many of us will know that private cars tend to follow a uniform index series for their Vehicle Registration Numbers (VRN), with three letters beginning with “Sxx” in the front, followed by one to four numbers, followed by another letter at the back.
Even for private cars, this is not the case all the time, as VRN can start with just S or Sx instead of Sxx. And, there are different index series for different types of cars and vehicles, as we have seen some above – PU for Pulau Ubin-registered vehicles, and RU for Restricted Use vehicles.
From the early 1900s, there were private car licence plates in Singapore, beginning with a single “S” series. A second letter was introduced “Sx”, as the vehicle population grew. This continued from SB to SY, with the exception of certain letters that were in use, such as SH for taxis. SA was not used either.
In 1972, the “Sx” series was exhausted, we switched to the “E” series. The plates EA to EZ ran from 1972 to 1984. “I” and “O” were not used in this series, presumably to avoid confusion with 1 and 0.
In August 1984, the “Sxx” series made a return, albeit with a third letter. This series is running till today, with the car plate series “SNL” running in April 2023. Similarly, certain number plates were avoided, especially with vowels to avoid forming words. Given this, the series was started with SBA, completely avoiding “SAx” number plates. Others like “SKY” and “SLY” that also made words were excluded.
For those who have always been wondering how the last letter in a car plate is derived, rest assured that it’s not random. Rather it is a “checksum number”, derived from a mathematical calculation based on two letters in the car plate and the rest of the numbers.
From time to time, there may also be special number plates introduced for certain events, such as the Youth Olympic Games, where we used the “YOG” number plate, and the “AIRSHOW” number plate used during the Singapore Air Show.
Summary of certain index series in use on the roads in Singapore today. For example, we no longer see the Q series on the road – which used to be for company cars or government-registered cars.
|Types of Vehicles||Index Series|
|Motor cars registered in the names of private individuals or car‑sharing co‑operatives||S, SB, SC, SE, SF, SJ to SY;
E, EA to EZ;
SBA to SBR, SBT to SBZ;
SCA, SCE to SCR, SCU to SCZ;
SDA, SDB, SDD to SDZ;
SFA to SGZ;
SJA to SMA, SMC to SSZ;
STA, STB, STD, STF to STZ; and
SVA to SYZ.
|motor cars registered in the names of companies, business concerns, professional firms, societies, associations, clubs, etc., with a certificate of entitlement issued on or after 1st April 1998|
|private hire cars registered with a certificate of entitlement issued on or after 1st April 1998|
|motor cars registered in the name of the Government or a Statutory Board on or after 1st April 2019, except for civil defence operations cars, cars used for fire-fighting purposes, and police operations cars|
|Motor cars registered in the names of companies, business concerns, professional firms, societies, associations, clubs, etc., with a certificate of entitlement issued before 1st April 1998||Q, QA to QW, QZ;
QEA to QEZ;
QBA to QBR, QBT to QBZ;
QCA, QCE to QCR, QCU to QCZ;
QDA, QDB, QDD to QDZ;
QFA to QGZ;
QJA to QSY;
QTA, QTB, QTD, QTF to QTZ; and
QVA to QWZ.
|Private hire cars registered with a certificate of entitlement issued before 1st April 1998||SZ, SZA to SZZ.|
|Motor cars registered in the name of the Government or a Statutory Board that are
– registered before 1st April 2019;
– civil defence operations cars;
– used for fire-fighting purposes; or
– police operations cars.
QXA to QXZ; and
QYA to QYZ.
|Consular/Diplomatic Corps vehicles||CC, CD, TC, TE.|
|Private buses, private hire buses and excursion buses registered||with a certificate of entitlement issued before 1st April 1998: PB, PH, PZ.
with a certificate of entitlement issued on or after 1st April 1998: PA, PC to PG, PJ to PN, PP to PT, PV to PY; and
PBA to PZZ.
|Omnibuses||TIB, SDC, CSS, SBS, SMB, SG.|
|Taxis||SH, SHA to SHZ.|
|Goods vehicles and recovery vehicles having a maximum laden weight not exceeding 3.5 metric tons||G, GA to GZ; and
GBA to GZZ.
|Goods vehicles and recovery vehicles having a maximum laden weight exceeding 3.5 metric tons and constructed with not more than 2 axles||Y, YA to YZ; and
YBA to YZZ.
|Goods vehicles having a maximum laden weight exceeding 3.5 metric tons and constructed with more than 2 axles||X, XA to XZ; and
XBA to XZZ.
|Locomotives and tractors, construction equipment and engineering plant||W, WA to WZ; and
WBA to WZZ.
|Trailers||TR, TRA to TZZ.|
|Motor cycles and scooters (Traffic Police Department)||TP.|
|Land Transport Authority of Singapore’s motor cycles and scooters||LTA.|
|Vehicles registered for use within such areas as may be approved by the Registrar||RU.|
|Pulau Ubin Scheme vehicles||PU.|
|Vehicles kept or used for research and development or for such other purposes as may be approved by the Registrar||RA to RT, RV to RZ.|
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