AD | What Are Irish Number Plates?

Irish number plates might seem pretty self-explanatory they’re the number plates found on vehicles manufactured/ sold in Ireland right? Well yes, they are but things are a little more confusing than you might first think. Irish number plates and different for those found in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

So, before we look at the Irish number plates in more detail it’s important that you know how Northern Ireland’s and the rest of the UK’s plates work. In the UK non-personalised number plates follow the same pattern.


They are laid out in the following order with two-letters which act as the location code, then the age identifier which is usually shown as two numbers and then there will be a combination of three letters or numbers to finish the plate.

In Northern Ireland the layout is similar but there are some differences to know about. When it comes to newer number plates in Northern Ireland they will always use select letters for the location code. These will typically begin with the letter I but they can also feature letters A – W as long as the second letter is I.


However, apart from this, the layout is the same as the number plates found in the rest of the UK. So, Northern Irish plates are for all intents and purposes quite similar but what about the republic of Ireland? When you’re looking at these Irish plates things are quite different.

Number Plates In The Republic of Ireland

Number plates in the Republic of Ireland may at first seem more complicated than those found in the UK and Northern Ireland but just like those alternatives, the plates are divided into three sections. They follow this basic layout YYY–CC–SSSSSS.

So, yes they are typically going to be longer than the plates found in the rest of the UK. To help you get a better understanding of each section and what they will usually look like read on below. Once you know how they are put together Irish number plates are easy to understand.

The Y Section

This section will always be numbers so it is the reverse of the layout found in the UK. Three digits are used in two groups one section covers January to June while another covers July to December. This new practice began in 2013 using 131 for the first 6 months and 132 for the latter half of the year.

The pattern has continued for the following years with 133, 134 and so on. Vehicles registered before 2013 use the older YY system for this section of the plates. Which is similar to the age identifier used in the UK. In this system, only two numbers were used to signal the registration of the vehicle.

For 2005 this would have been 05, for 2006 it would be 06 but this was changed to the three-digit YYY system in 2013. You may have already noticed that the YYY digits are based on the date the vehicle is first registered. So, it may differ from the actual year that the vehicle was manufactured, model numbers and the date of registration won’t always be the same after all.

The C Section

The second section of an Irish number plate is the two-character location identifier. This follows a similar system to the plates in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. While the location identifier will usually be two letters some locations in Ireland will only have one letter. Galway county and Dublin, for example, use the single-letters G and D.


The S Section

Finally, we have the S section this might at first seem quite random and erratic but this section does actually have a pattern to it. The S section will always be numbers on standard Irish plates and it can range from a single-digit to six numbers long.

The S section is based on the number of cars manufactured in a certain period in each location. For example, the first car registered in Dublin would be D 1, the second D 2 and so on. This number is usually reset back to 1 after each year but this might not always be the case.

So, that completes our look at Irish number plates. You can likely see now how they differ from the number plates found in the rest of the UK. To sum up the main points one last time the first section is based on when the vehicle was registered.

The second section is the location identifier which is based on where you live and the final section is based on the number of cars registered in your location during that specific time period. It’s also important to remember that Irish number plates are fixed which means they can’t be transferred to other vehicles. You can change your plates however you must first get your existing ones de-registered.



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