The Irish Numbers-Obsession

Here’s the thing: Irish registration plates do start with the year the car was first registered, followed by the county this happened in. Thus anyone can see that the car in front is not only a Toyota, but on the road since 2007 (07-registration), and started off in County Donegal (DL code). Which, to a German, is unusual.

See, the same car in Germany may have a registration like IZ-CN 13 – which means nothing less and nothing more than it being currently registered in the Kreis Steinburg (which uses the IZ code for Itzehoe, the main city). Apart from rust, dents, or a good knowledge of minute car details there is nothing to tell you how old the car is. And nobody gives a flying fig about it.

“But how do you tell how old the car is when you want to buy it used?” A question I have often been asked by Irish acquaintances. Easy … you look at the paperwork, namely the Fahrzeugbrief, which will also give you a complete history of who owned the car before. The “one careful lady owner” of legend being de-masked as a taxi firm, a pizza delivery service, two private citizens, and the girl selling it now.

Now, in Ireland … you only look at the numbers on the plate …

Great news … the Dacia Sandero is a 2018 car!

After some years in Ireland, even for a German this is the new normal. And you fall for the numbers game big time. Especially when you start buying a car late in the year. Because everybody tells you that a 181 (registered in the first six months of 2018) will have a much higher re-sale value than a 172 (registered in the last six months of 2017). In our case: if the Sandero had arrived earlier, and been registered in late December 2017, the future would have looked bleak … compared to a registration two weeks later. Everybody told us so.


And as if this alone was not enough, I soon realised that driving a 181-registered car in the first weeks of 2018 is a new experience. Again, a comparison to Germany: had I driven a brand new Dacia Sandero there with, say, the registration HU-BG 184, nobody would have bothered to spare a second glance. Because a Dacia does not turn heads like a Ferrari, and because it could have been a few years old.

But I soon found that while the Dacia might not turn heads here either (there is quite a large number on the roads), a 181-registration certainly will. It seems to be the first thing folks notice even in passing, giving you the critical once-over immediately. And some people do this with pure hatred in their eyes. You can actually feel their disdain, hear their thought process. “Who does he think he is, flaunting a new car?” Or even mentally questioning how you can afford a new car. (Hint: because the new car is a Dacia Sandero, nudge …)

It is a strange world. But I admit … at the start of every new registration period Herself and I also report the first new registration we see to each other.

By the way, and totally unconnected to vehicle age: the “careful lady owner” might become an interesting turn of phrase when you get sold you car with it, like the Renault Clio I owned did. The equality of sexes certainly extends as far as both being able to totally knacker a car in record time. But in this case the description seemed to be true, it certainly was a lady owner, and she must have been careful.

Because, when I had to unscrew the central console for some minor repair work … I found some old condom wrappers.

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