Vehicle registration plates of Argentina

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Argentine license plates (in Spanish, chapas patentes or simply patentes) are used to uniquely identify motor vehicles on the roads of Argentina. The current system employs three letters followed by three digits, issued consecutively, but the license plate system underwent significant changes before the use of this format.

The history of license plates in Argentina can be broken down in two major phases, the decentralized phase (until 1972) and the centralized one (since 1972). During the decentralized phase, license plates were assigned by each municipality or by the provinces, while during the second phase, the national state took charge of standardizing and centralizing the design and style.

1900s-1972: Decentralization[edit]

The first formal license plates were assigned in the 1900s, although few records exist of those. The period between 1916 and 1972 was the most prolific in designs. Since each district was allowed to issue its own license plates, it is possible to find a small piece of history of each one just by looking at their past plates.

1972-1994: Identifying the provinces[edit]

Typical Argentine registration plate, 1972-1994 format.

In 1972 the national government standardized the plates, the format being one letter and six digits, with embossed characters painted white against a black background. The letter identified the issuing province (or city, in the case of Buenos Aires), with the numbers issued consecutively in each jurisdiction. The letter usually was the first letter of the province's name, but for multiple provinces beginning with the same letters, some provinces were issued other letters (such as X for Córdoba, P for Formosa, A for Salta, Q for Neuquen and N for Misiones); this standard is still used in the ISO 3166-2:AR geocode.

The only two districts to ever surpass one million plates, thus generating a conflict in formatting, were the province of Buenos Aires and the capital, the city of Buenos Aires. The issue was resolved by halving the height of the letter and adding an additional number below it.

Code Subdivision name
C  Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
B  Buenos Aires
K  Catamarca
H  Chaco
U  Chubut
X  Córdoba
W  Corrientes
E  Entre Ríos
P  Formosa
Y  Jujuy
L  La Pampa
F  La Rioja
M  Mendoza
N  Misiones
Q  Neuquén
R  Río Negro
A  Salta
J  San Juan
D  San Luis
Z  Santa Cruz
S  Santa Fe
G  Santiago del Estero
V  Tierra del Fuego
T  Tucumán

1995 onwards: A national standard[edit]

Typical Argentine registration plate, 1995 onwards format.

In 1994 the government decreed that all cars sold on or after January 1, 1995 were to have a new license plate design, all used cars sold after that date will get new plates, and the rest of the cars were going to be issued new plates in stages.

This new design contains three letters followed by three digits, and removes any clues identifying the province of origin. This was advertised as a federalist move from the government.

In a move to simplify the transition, all plates issued to cars sold prior to the cut-off date started with the letter R (and successively S, T, U, V, W, and part of the X series), while the cars that received the plates as their first plate started alphabetically from AAA 000. The lettering is debossed in white against a black background. The plates also have a white frame with the word Argentina at the top of the plate screened in light blue. All materials are reflective, to improve visibility on the streets. Some plates feature a small "D" or "T" between the letters and the numbers, denoting that this plate is a duplicate or triplicate when the previous plate or plates had been lost or stolen.

Other types[edit]

Image Type Serial format Design
Argentine diplomatic vehicle registration plate.jpg Diplomatic Corps CD 1234 or CD-1234 black on white; longer plate size; variety of manufacturing styles
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg   Consular corps CC-1234 orange on teal; "Rep. Argentina" legend; longer plate size
Argentina license plate unknown type.jpg   Special missions ME-1234
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg   International organization OI-1234
Argentina non-diplomatic embassy staff license plate.jpg   Non-diplomatic embassy staff (personal auxiliar) PA-1234
Argentine motorcycle vehicle registration plate.jpg Motorcycle 123/ABC Until 2010. White on black; vertically at left is one-letter province code over a horizontal line over "RNPA".
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 123 ABC Starting in 2010.
Argentina RNPA license plate.jpg Registro Nacional de la Patente Automotor ABC 12 white on black; "RNPA" and "Republica Argentina" legends
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Temporary RAB-1234
possibly UAB-1234
red on white; made of paper
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Trailer 101 ABC 123; alpha-numeric sequence matches that of primary mover same design as standard plate but with more narrow serial characters
License plate Argentina Transporte Nacional de Cargas.jpg Transporte Nacional de Cargas ABC-123 teal on yellow; more square plate

Limits of the system[edit]

It is still unclear what will be done when the system runs out of numbers. The 3-letter-plus-3-digit code allows for 26³ × 10³ = 17,576,000 license plates. RAA-000 to ZZZ-999 were reserved for older vehicles. Since 1995, new licenses have been issued starting from AAA-000. In July 2005, new cars have licenses starting with F, while about the same month in 2004, license plates started with E. This shows that, if licenses continue to be granted at the current rate, in a few years the system will run out of numbers. An efficient solution would be to add a fourth letter, which will increase the system's capacity by a factor of 26, to 456,976,000 vehicles (a fourth number would only increase it tenfold to 175,760,000 licenses). In August 2008, new cars had plates starting with HK. As of 2009, the series has reached the mid I series.

Evolution of lettering from Argentinean License Plates (starts January 1st 1995)

  • Jan 1st, 1995 - AA-
  • Jan 1st, 1996 - AP-
  • Jan 1st, 1997 - BD-
  • Jan 1st, 1998 - BV-
  • Jan 1st, 1999 - CO-
  • Jan 1st, 2000 - DC-
  • Jan 1st, 2001 - DQ-
  • Jan 1st, 2002 - DX-
  • Jan 1st, 2003 - EC-
  • Jan 1st, 2004 - EH-
  • Jan 1st, 2005 - ET-
  • Jan 1st, 2006 - FI-
  • Jan 1st, 2007 - GA-
  • Jan 1st, 2008 - GV-
  • Jan 1st, 2009 - HU-
  • Jan 1st, 2010 - IN-
  • Jan 1st, 2011 - JN-
  • Jan 1st, 2012 - KU-
  • Jan 1st, 2013 - LZ-
  • Jan 1st, 2014 - NM-

According to first letter start:

  • A - JAN 1995
  • B - OCT 1996
  • C - MAR 1998
  • D - NOV 1999
  • E - MAY 2002
  • F - JUN 2005
  • G - DEC 2006
  • H - FEB 2008
  • I - APR 2009
  • J - JUL 2010
  • K - MAY 2011
  • L - FEB 2012
  • M - JAN 2013
  • N - AUG 2013

External links[edit]