Red number plate: what does it mean (France and UK)?

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Publié par Eplaque - 5 min de lecture ⏳

Le 05/09/2023

Are you also wondering what a red number plate is, and what does it mean? Good news, we have the answer! In France, the color of a license plate says a lot about its owner and his vehicle. A red license plate is a special plate for passenger vehicles in transit, intended for export or temporary usage for foreigners. While in the UK, it is known as a dealer plate.

What does a red number plate mean in France?

These vehicles with a number plate on a red background were purchased new in France. They are exempt from customs duties and VAT as they are registered for export. It is therefore a temporary plate, that can be used temporarily in France and abroad. We call them red license plate or “TT”, because those red plates always start with “TT” (above picture is for illustrative purpose only). TT means “Transit temporaire”, or “Temporary Transit”. Whether it is a pleonasm or not, we let you decide!

French red number plates are also a solution for foreigners who want to own a car temporarily while staying in France. For example, expatriates returning to France for vacation time, journalists or foreign trainees. The car belongs to them, but at the end of the stay in France, they will conclude a “contrat de reprise” (repurchase contract) with the seller. With such contract, the seller guarantees that he will buy back the car at certain conditions when TT plates expire.

Not only a red number plate is financially attractive for foreigners, because it is exempted from taxes. But it is also the only solution for people who don’t have a legal address in France, since this is a requirement to register a car with « normal” French licence plates. TT registration can be done for a passenger car but also for all two-wheeler over 50 cm3 and caravans.

red number plate
In transit license plate from France

Who can apply for red number plates in France?

To be eligible to red license plates « TT », the owner of the vehicle must meet a few conditions:

  • Have his main residence outside of France, but also out of the European Union
  • Stay temporarily in one of the countries of the European Union
  • Do not carry out any gainful activity during this stay in one of the countries of the European Union

The spouse, parents and children of the owner of the vehicle are the only ones who can drive this vehicle (+ the owner of the red number plate, of course).

How to apply for in transit license plates in France?

To be eligible, the purchaser of a new car meeting the requirements must submit an “export declaration”. Usually, the car dealer will do it on his behalf. Based on that declaration, a 846B certificate must be requested to a customs office. Once this certificate is issued, an in transit French red number plate can be requested.

Once the number is known, the owner must order himself the plates through a private seller. For example, our company: we sell French license plates online. We just require a copy of the TT car registration certificate as supporting documentation.

Paperwork for the registration of a vehicle with «  temporary transit use  »

For any request for registration of a vehicle in TT, the owner must provide several documents.

A tax receipt

You must produce the 846B document issued by the customs service. It must also mention the deadline for the tax exemption from which the vehicle benefits.

Documents proving the identity of the applicant

The applicant must prove that he:

  1. Lives in a country outside the EU (proof of address)
  2. Will be staying temporarily in France

The period of validity of red license plates is generally 6 months. Moreover, the validity is displayed on the right hand side on the plates. You can, of course, extend it once, provided you make the request before it expires. In the event of a traffic road check, you must present the export declaration to the police. The spouse, parents or children must for their part be able to prove that they are indeed relatives of the owner of the red number plates.

plaque personnalisée belge
A Belgian license plate

Duration of temporary transit registration

The duration of the TT registration cannot exceed one year and must last at least 3 consecutive weeks. The expiry date of the TT registration is written on the right of the license plate. Owners of vehicles bearing their red license plates must imperatively be able to provide the police, in the event of an inspection, with an export declaration.

Red number plate in the UK: for traders

Red background number plates in the UK are used for a completely different purpose. They also look different, because it is the characters that are printed in red, the background is white. Nowadays, the format used is one letter + 4 digits.

In the United Kingdom, red license plates are used to indicate that a vehicle is being used for special purposes, linked to professional activities of the automotive industry. These plates are often referred to as « trade plates » or « dealer plates. » Their distinctive colors allow to differentiate them from standard black on white and yellow number plates that most vehicles in the UK use.

In short, those UK number plates are used as temporary plates for vehicles that need to move for business reasons. Here are some common uses of red number plates in the UK:

  • Businesses involved in the motor trade, such as car dealerships, manufacturers, and mechanics, use red number plates to move vehicles that are not yet registered for regular road use. These plates allow them to test drive, transport, and demonstrate vehicles without having to register them with standard UK plates
  • Red plates are also used for unregistered vehicles being tested, examined, or repaired by garages, repair shops, or testing centers
  • Companies specialized in collecting and delivering vehicles can also apply for trade licence plates

How to get UK red number plates?

You need to apply for UK red license plates to the DVLA by filling a VTL301 form. To prove that you are eligible, the applicant must provide a copy if his Motor Trade Insurance Certificate. If it’s not possible, the applicant will have to explain why he does not have such insurance, and provide alternatively his Companies House registration number. A trader can request several UK red number plates, if required. If the application is successful, a confirmation letter and the trade plates are sent within 4 weeks of applying. They will be sent separately.


What are black and red number plates in the UK?

They don’t have any official use, although they can be ordered for decorative purpose (« classic Irish and IL black and red number plate »).

What countries with red number plates?

In Europe, no country uses red background number plates for their standard vehicle registrations. If by red you mean the characters color, Belgium is the only nation with such plates (red on white). Usually red plates are reserved to specific usages, such as export in many EU countries, or dealers in the UK.

Cyprus red number plates: what does it mean?

In Cyprus, red number plates are temporary. It’s the case for many European car license plates.

Are 4D neon red number plates legal in the UK?

No, although some sellers pretend the opposite, and some owners use them.

DK temp
A temporary plate in Denmark, not to mix up with Belgian license plates!

Une question ?

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Les questions des utilisateurs

  • Adam Bertalan

    16 septembre 2023

    Hello! I'd like to buy a boat with a trailer in France. The trailer is road legal and has a license plate. It is used, not new. Is it possible to get a transit license plate in France to be able to drive the trailer back to my home country, Hungary? Thanks! Have a great day, Adam
    • Logo Eplaque


      18 septembre 2023

      No, in France second-hand vehicles are exported based on their current plates (here plates follow the vehicle for life), there are no transit plates for export like in most countries.

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