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As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

Decoding Massachusetts License Plates

Decoding Massachusetts License Plates  Here’s a bit of mindless fun that just might come in handy someday – if only to keep the kids (of any age!) occupied during road trips.

This license plate sign for a Cambridgeport insurance agency is a long time favorite of mine.

This license plate sign for a Cambridgeport insurance agency is a long time favorite of mine.

One of the other real estate agents in my office turned me on to this trick.  We had both always been under the impression that the police were reading those little sticker tags on license plates to determine if a car had an expired registration.  There’s actually a better way – a method to the madness of the seemingly random string of digits and letters on Massachusetts license plates.

It turns out that the last digit on your automobile license plate – wherever it falls in the six character string – corresponds with the month that your registration expires.  Granted you may be off track because you reregistered late one year but this works for the original registration month which I think is typically your birthday month.

Here’s an example – If your license plate reads “F98 HEV” your registration expires in August – the 8th month – and the upper left corner of your plate will say “AUG”.

Or your plate might read “JK3 M92” – you have a plate that expires in February– and sure enough there’ll be “FEB” in the upper left corner of your license plates.

It doesn’t matter where in the string the number falls – just that it’s the last number.  There could be just one number followed by five letters (theoretically – I really don’t know the meaning, if any, of the letters) and that one number – which is both the first number and the last – would match the month.

Once you start checking on this as you drive or walk down the street it’s hard to stop.  Trust me – it’s not easy to do while you’re at the wheel unless you’re stuck in traffic.  But it does become almost irresistible. Anywhere there are cars you can play the game.

A few caveats – the system seems to have been put in place with the launch of the license plates with red lettering.  The old green plates that are being nursed along by their owners don’t follow this pattern.  Neither do vanity plates or the highly coveted low number license plates.

A hole in my understanding of the code is the method used for November and December birthdays.  I’m still assuming that registrations typically correspond with your birthday month. The code works for the first through tenth months – January through October. October license plates have a zero as the last digit.

But what about November and December?  My “research” reminded me that all commercial plates expire in December. I have a vague memory of learning this one year when I went to the registry in December for some reason (I’m a January myself) and the long lines were all commercial registration renewals.  The commercial plates all have “DEC” in the upper left corner but no corresponding number pattern that I’ve discerned.  And for the life of me I couldn’t find any “NOV” plates.  I’m still looking.

If you have a November or December birthday and can fill me in let me know.  Until then I’ll keep looking.


Decoding Massachusetts license plates is my hobby.  My work – and my passion – is selling real estate in Cambridge and nearby.  Let me know if I can help.

Categories: Everything Else

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