Plates from Switzerland                       Codes  

Introduction

Switzerland is one of the smallest countries in Europe and one of the ‘hardest to get’ countries as far as license plates are concerned. Indeed, unlike France or the USA in which each license plate pertains to a specific vehicle, in Switzerland each license plate is linked to one citizen from the time he reaches his or her driving age to his or her demise. Then, the same license plate is transferred to another citizen who buys a vehicle for the first time. Therefore, it is safe to say that in Switzerland the license plate is a form of identification and its importance in every citizen’s daily life is premier.

Normal series

In the current registration system, each vehicle has both a front (no shield) and a rear license plate. The rear plate is decorated with one shield representing the Federal State (white cross on a red background) and one shield representing the Cantonal shield. See the list of these Cantons and a detailed description for each Canton and all Canton shields (old design).

The rear Swiss license plates come in 2 formats. One format, which is used to register most of the European brand cars exactly matches the French license plate format (500 x 110 mm). The other format (300 x 160 mm) is especially suited for foreign cars (US and Japanese brands).

Front plates come in a smaller format (300 x 80 mm), since 1973.

In the current registration system, the first 2 letters identify the Canton, above up to 6 numerals. Characters are in black lettering on a white background. Depending on the Canton, reflectorization can be compulsory or not.

Rental cars had the letter V untill year 2000 (standing for Vermietung or rental in German) suffixing the serial number. The V and the serial number are separated by a period.

In the same way, the letter U is added after the serial number to designate cars belonging to a garage.

Special plates

  1. Snowmobiles. The vehicle only has one small format plate.
  2. Abnormal load vehicles and trailers. The vehicle has 2 plates identical in format to the current series.

 

 

  1. Fire Brigade vehicles. The vehicle has 2 plates identical to the format of the current series.
  2. Road maintenance vehicles. 2 plates identical in format to the current series.
  3. Road maintenance trailers. 1 small format plate and no shield.

     

 

Temporary plates

Temporary plates look exactly like the normal series except for a red stripe indicating the year of validity of the plate. This stripe may be followed by the letter Z indicating that federal taxes have not been paid for the vehicle. They also differ in the sense that they have a maximum of 5 digits (instead of 6 for normal series plates).

 

These plates are used by foreigners working or living on a temporary basis in Switzerland. They come on a white background but can also be found on brown or blue background for special vehicles. Until 1995, the validation year was embossed on the plate. Since then, the federal government has made the decision that it was more economical to manufacture them with a blank red stripe on which the validation date is indicated by a sticker.

Official vehicles

Each plate on an official vehicle only has the Federal shield, along with a letter followed by up to 5 numerals.

 

The following letters are used for official vehicle registration :

  • A : Federal Administration
  • P : Public Authorities like Railroads or Postal Service vehicles
  • M : Military vehicles
     

Diplomatic plates

Each plate has 2 white letters (AT, CD or CC) on a colored background (green or blue) on the left hand side, while other characters have a black lettering on a white background. The first 2 characters of the registration represent the Canton’s code and they are followed by a serial number bearing up to 3 numerals and an additional number representing the embassy or the organization to which the vehicle belongs to.  The AT code stands for administrative and technical staff of the embassies located in the Bern canton. The blue color corresponds to the international institutions and permanent missions, as the green color is dedicated to embassies located in Bern.

© Copyright Xavier Hadjadj