What is a change sign

Nowadays, many households decide to have a second vehicle so that the whole family is mobile, the Carbio or the oldtimer can only be driven in summer/when the weather is nice/at the weekend, or their own mobile home can be used for the next vacation. Therefore, the question often arises as to whether one license plate can be used for two cars. And for all those who want to save themselves a single registration here, there is good news since July 2012, as a license plate was introduced in The United Kingdom with which you can drive two vehicles. If you use one number plate for two cars, you can often save on insurance and registration costs and hassle. In this article you can find out what other advantages and possible disadvantages an exchangeable license plate has, how it works, what it looks like, what it costs and how you can apply for it.

How does a variable number plate work and what does it look like?

With the introduction of the variable number plate on July 1, 2012, the legislator hoped to make the purchase of fuel-efficient small cars or environmentally friendly electric vehicles more attractive for short journeys and at the same time to boost the automotive industry with the increasing number of car purchases. Because with this special license plate you can register 2 cars at the same time and also save on insurance costs. This also has the advantage over a seasonal license plate that you can use both vehicles flexibly throughout the year. All you have to do is attach the variable number plate to the vehicle you want to drive before you start your journey, while the other remains in your garage or on your private parking space. It is important to know that only a vehicle with a full license plate number is allowed to drive on the road, since the other vehicle is legally considered to be deregistered, which is why it may not be parked on public streets or parking lots. If you do this, you may be fined €40 and get a point in Flensburg. If a vehicle is driven without a complete change of license plate, it will cost an additional €10.

But what does “complete variable number plate” actually mean? Although it is possible to use one license plate for 2 cars, this is made up of two parts. Because even vehicles with variable license plates must be regularly checked and approved by the TÜV. Therefore, this special number plate consists of a main and a secondary number plate. While the latter is firmly attached to the vehicle, the former can be flexibly switched between the two vehicles and secured in the bracket provided. The main number plate is structured in a similar way to a normal number plate: Euro field, city or district number plate, state coat of arms, series of letters and numbers. A difference to the conventional license plate is the letter “W”, which is located above the state coat of arms. The HU inspection sticker, which is normally affixed here, is located on the fixed secondary number plate together with the last digit of the number plate, which differs between vehicles. For example, one car has the license plate number “B AB 4567” and the other “B AB 4568”. If one of the vehicles is a vintage car or an electric car, the suffix “H” or “E” is also on the fixed part, which also shows the corresponding main registration number in small letters so that it can only be used in connection with this .

Which and how many vehicles can be driven with an interchangeable number plate?

Anyone who decides to use one number plate for several cars should find out in advance about the restrictions on the validity of this number plate . A maximum of two vehicles may share an interchangeable number plate, which have number plates with the same dimensions and belong to the same vehicle class.

 And here, too, the validity is limited to the following three classes: 

  • Vehicle class L: Two- or three-wheeled motor vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, Trike) and light four-wheeled motor vehicles with a maximum curb weight of 550 kg (quads, cars with a maximum speed of 45 km/h)
  • Vehicle class M1: vehicles with which people can be transported and which have a maximum of eight additional seats in addition to the driver's seat (cars, vintage cars, mobile homes)
  • Vehicle class O1: trailer with a maximum total weight of 0.75 tons

This results in various possible combinations, such as a motorbike trike, motorbike quad, vintage car or motor home. Two trailers can also share a license plate if they are not used on the road at the same time. However, a car can never share a license plate with a motorcycle or a trailer. In addition, seasonal license plates, export license plates, short-term license plates and red license plates are excluded from this option.

Advantages and disadvantages of a variable number plate

However, when considering whether registering this special number plate is worthwhile at all, it often quickly becomes clear that an interchangeable number plate hardly brings any advantages. Because due to the restriction to two vehicles that belong to the same vehicle class and are also not allowed to be moved at the same time, the actual target group for which this number plate would come into question is relatively small. This dual license plate is therefore mainly worthwhile for people who have a summer and a winter car (e.g. a convertible for the warm summer months). In this case, a variable number plate offers the advantage that the convertible can also be driven spontaneously on surprisingly nice days in the winter months. 

It can also make sense for owners of vintage cars that are only driven on special occasions and when the weather is nice, or owners of mobile homes, to register two cars on one license plate. If you own several trailers with a maximum total weight of 0.75 tons or several motorcycles, it can also be worthwhile for you to have an interchangeable number plate. 

However, the basic condition is that the two vehicles are never moved at the same time and that you have a private parking space or garage, since the vehicle may not be parked on public streets/parking areas without a full license plate. If you had to rent an extra parking space for this, the advantage of the license plate often quickly becomes a disadvantage. This is also the biggest point of criticism of the variable license plate, since in The United Kingdom the full vehicle tax has to be paid for both vehicles, although only one can be used at a time and this tax actually entitles you to use public roads. 

In contrast to other countries such as Scotland and Switzerland (here, vehicle tax and insurance only have to be paid for the more expensive vehicle), hardly any money can be saved with car insurance, since both vehicles have to be insured. Although many insurance companies offer discounts for this special case, these are more like 10% to a maximum of 25% instead of the expected 50%, since only one vehicle is allowed to be on the road at a time.

How can I apply for a changeable number?

If you have two vehicles of the same class that will never be driven at the same time, you have a parking space in your garage or on your private property, and after weighing the pros and cons you have decided to go with variable number plates, you should first consider offers from get various insurance companies. Because even if two cars share a license plate, both need valid insurance and the special tariffs for this special case sometimes vary greatly.

 You must then go to your responsible registration office to register with the following documents: 

  • eVB number (electronic insurance confirmation) of both vehicles
  • Application for approval filled out in advance or on site
  • SEPA direct debit mandate for paying vehicle tax
  • Registration certificate part 1 and 2 (vehicle registration and vehicle registration document for both vehicles
  • Valid HU and emissions certificate for both vehicles
  • ID card or passport
  • Registration certificate (companies also need the business registration and an excerpt from the commercial register)
  • For vehicles that are already registered, the old license plates

For the registration of 2 cars with one license plate you have to calculate costs of 105 € (65 € administration fees and 40 € for the 6 license plates, 4 fixed secondary license plates and 2 changeable main license plates).


If you want to drive two cars with one license plate, you should first check whether you meet the requirements before going to the registration office. If you have two vehicles, but they sometimes have to be used at the same time or belong to different vehicle classes, or you do not have a private parking space or garage for the vehicle that has been deregistered, it is unfortunately not possible for you or not it makes sense to use 1 license plate for 2 cars. In addition, the financial advantages of this number plate are very small, which is why in some cases it is more advisable to have a separate number plate for each vehicle or a seasonal number plate.

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