What do I need to know about interchangeable license plates?

Published on : 21 January 20215 min reading time

A license plate is essential for a car to be used on public roads. It is the only way for the authorities to recognize the owner of the vehicle. Especially in the case of traffic violations, the owner can at least be identified by this system, regardless of whether a red light has been run or whether the vehicle has been flashed at too high a speed.

The license plate is practically the identity card which, unlike the vehicle registration document or vehicle registration document, is always visually present to outsiders. But not all license plates are the same. There are different license plates on cars (and also on motorcycles).

In addition to the normal license plate and the transfer plate, there are also so-called interchangeable license plates, which can be convenient for drivers of several vehicles. You will be shown what interchangeable license plates are and whether they can also be useful for your fleet.

What are interchangeable license plates?

Unlike “normal” license plates, interchangeable license plates are license plates that, as the name implies, can be used alternately for two vehicles. Therefore, if you have at least two vehicles in your household, you can request a license plate change at the licensing office.

The interchangeable licence plate consists of two parts, the main licence plate and a small additional licence plate that must also be attached to the vehicle. Only when both partial license plates are attached can the vehicle be properly driven in road traffic.

What are they primarily intended for?

Changeable licence plates are especially intended for drivers of cars (or motorcycles) who have two vehicles, only one of which is moved at a time. This saves the purchase of a second licence plate, since both vehicles have the same number. It makes no difference to the authorities’ investigations, because in the event of a violation, both vehicles can be assigned to the owner with the partial license plates.

It is particularly important, when using the vehicle, that both vehicles belong to the same EU vehicle class. For this reason, a category change licence plate can be used for two passenger cars or two motorcycles of the same class each. Similarly, the license plate can be used for one passenger car and one motor home together.

However, the car/motorcycle combination is not possible, as these are different classes of vehicles. In addition, the two license plates have a different size in this case. The interchangeable license plate is also practical for owners of old cars, because the “old darling” can be equipped with a second license plate in addition to the normal household car. Also, the changeable license plate model can be interesting for drivers who have a company car as a second vehicle in the household.

What are the possible advantages and disadvantages?

The advantage of interchangeable license plates is obvious: you don’t have to buy a second license plate for the second vehicle, but you can drive both vehicles using one license plate. However, only a maximum of two vehicles can be driven on one interchangeable licence plate. Therefore, if you are a merchant and have a large fleet of vehicles, the interchangeable licence plate is of little use. One of the major disadvantages of the interchangeable licence plate is that only one vehicle can be used at a time with it. If two people in the household want to use both cars at the same time (for example, to go to work or shopping), then only one vehicle can be used at a time.

On the other hand, if you use both vehicles at the same time, you are committing an administrative offence that may be punishable by a fine. The vehicle that is not used must also be parked in a private parking lot during this time. Parking in public places without a license plate number is also prohibited and may be subject to a fine.

Insurance coverage for the vehicle parked in public without a license plate change may also be at risk during this time. You do not receive a tax benefit (vehicle tax) when using the vehicle license plate. The demonstration at the TÜV also takes place in a completely normal manner, so that every vehicle must be presented at some point. However, there is a small reduction with the insurance company, because both cars then go through the same insurer.


A changeable license plate is therefore particularly interesting for drivers who own a second vehicle, such as a mobile home or an antique car, and who do not drive too often and a lot. The big disadvantage of this type of vehicle is that the two vehicles cannot be used at the same time, but only alternately.

In addition, you have to fix an enlarged holder for the license plates, because they are made up of two parts. However, you can save a few euros with the insurance. If you want to use the vehicles flexibly, it is usually better to get two normal license plates, because the advantages are rather manageable and limited to special application scenarios.

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