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How the Kenya car number plate system works

Kenya number plates system

When you buy a vehicle in Kenya you have to register it with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. Like any other country, Kenya has a system of registering its vehicles. This is a function housed at the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). Once your vehicle is registered, it is issued with a unique car number plate.

The different types of number plates in Kenya 2019

You must have noticed that there are different types of number plates on our roads. The difference lies in the lettering and numbering, colour, and shape. Through these elements you can tell apart key factors of any vehicle you meet on the road. Here is a breakdown of the categories of number plates in Kenya and key elements:

Civilian car number plate Kenya

  • White oblong number plate on the front bumper.
  • Yellow oblong or square number plates on the rear bumper.
  • The numbering is in this format: three letters – space – three numerals – a single letter at the end. For example, KCR 423Y. Older models may not have the last single letter.
  • The numbers and numerals are normally in black against a white background.
  • In special cases of vehicles that used to belong to the government but are now owned by civilians, you will see Ex-GK as the first initial for serialization.

Parastatal vehicles number plates Kenya

Parastatals are institutions or organisations under the government of Kenya, such as national commissions, companies whose majority shareholder is government, public schools, universities, and colleges that fall under management of government. Format for parastatals number plates is similar to that of the civilian vehicles, but the difference lies in the background. Parastatal number plates have are against a dark blue background.

Trailers (used on trucks)

You must have noticed (if you haven’t, look keenly) that trailers usually have a different number plate from the engine truck. This is because a single truck can haul different trailers. The trailers number plate system is ZA XXX where XXX are numerals.

Government number plates Kenya

The government of Kenya is a broad body, with two levels; National and County. Each of these levels of government has several departments, some necessitating special number plates as below. See below for leads:

1.       Government public car number plates Kenya
  • White oblong number plate on the front bumper.
  • Yellow oblong or square number plates on the rear bumper.
  • The numbering is in this format: two letters – space – one letter – three numerals – one letter. For example: GK B423Y , where the GK denotes Government of Kenya.
  • There may be variations in the number of digits because some vehicles might be from the old era, and some will depend on the governmental department in which the vehicle operates. But the unique identification feature is the GK.
2.       Government special forces car number plates

While the normal police service follows the common trend above, there are special number plates specifically for the Kenya Defence Forces. These vehicles would usually start with a KA instead of GK. Such vehicles are rare on the Kenyan roads.

3.       County government number plate

The county government level has a unique numbering for easy identification just like the national government. it takes the following format:

Two numerals – two letters – three numerals – one letter

For example: 47 CG 456A

  • 47 – County code (in this case 47 is the county code for Nairobi. 01 would be the county code for Mombasa, etc.
  • CG – denotes County Government

For the County Governors vehicle, it appears the front bumper bears a number plate in a style preferred by the particular governor. The official format would be:

GVN 047A

Where:

GVN – denotes Governor

047 – denotes the particular county, in this case Nairobi

Diplomatic vehicles number plates in Kenya

Chartered diplomats number plates are usually against a red background, and take the following format:

numerals – two letters – two numerals – one letter

For example:

99 CD 19 K

Where:

99 – code for the particular country (each country has a particular code assigned to it)

CD – Chartered diplomat

K – Kenya (shows embassy is domiciled in Kenya)

International non-governmental organisations number plates

International NGOs also have a special category of number plates serialization. Their number plates are against a red background too and start with KX.

For example:

 KX 05 D 59

Where:

KX – denotes international organisation

05 D – Denotes the particular NGO and rank of officer

Motorcycles and Tuktuk number plates

Motorcycles and tuktuks used to be registered in the same format as the civilian motor vehicles. The influx of motorcycles and tuktuks in the last decade brought chaos in the serialization system forcing the government to come up with new unique format for them.

Motorcycles: Four letters before the numerals, ie KMCA, etc

Tuktuks: KTWA, etc.

Special number plates in Kenya

You can choose to have your own customized number plate in Kenya. Have you seen cars drive by with names or monikers of the owners? For instance; SONKO, DON, HUDDAH, MARIGA, KIBAKI TENA, etc. These are expensive plates and you pay an arm and a leg to get and retain them.

There are also the special number plates as some of the ones below, which are also customized. If you have the money, why not?

Kenyan number plates system
Photo credit: Courtesy Nation Media

Fun Fact: Did you know that an oblong number plate on the back bumper means the vehicle was locally assembled while a squared one means the vehicle was imported, hence most likely second hand?

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