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How Hard is it to Get a License Plate in China's Big Cities?

Apr 27, 2013
By Pang Lei, Zhang Xiaoxi and Yu Menglu


At 10am yesterday morning, Beijing held its fourth license plate lottery for 2013.

Over 700,000 new cars flooded on to the capital's streets in 2010, causing plenty of headaches related to congestion and pollution. From 2011, the capital has capped the number of new cars that can be registered in the city at 240,000 a year.

Rather than introduce an auction system like that used in Shanghai and more recently Guangzhou, Beijing residents who want to buy a new car enter a monthly lottery for a chance to get one of about 20,000 license plates that are released each month.

Applicants, restricted to permanent residents or outsiders who have been paying tax for more than five years, need to register for the lottery by entering their details on the official website before midnight on the eighth of every month. The lottery is held on the 26th of each month.

Once you've entered your details, unless you're number is chosen, you'll automatically be entered into the lotteries for the next three draws. After that you're required to go back into the system an extend your registration for another three months.

Those who take part will not be alerted by text message or any other means if their name has been picked, all participants have to go to the official site to check and see if they've had any luck.

If you are lucky enough to win a plate, you have 6 months to buy a car and register it.

According to the official website through which permanent residents can register to take part in the lottery, just shy of 1.5 million people had registered to for a chance to get one of 18,482 plates up for grabs in yesterday's lottery.

This means the chance of having your name drawn and being awarded a plate are now more than 1 in 80. A far cry from the 1 in 10 odds that residents faced when the scheme was first launched in 2011.

Friday's draw also involved 44,000 work units in the running for 3,200 license plates that have been set aside for business.


In Shanghai they do things a little differently. License plates go to the highest bidder at an auction that is held on the third Saturday of each month.

The process of registering to take part in the Shanghai auction is quite complicated.

According to a recent post at the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Blog, "the applicant needs to go to a branch of Bank of Communications to register. There, the applicant puts down a 2,000 yuan deposit to get an account number and a computer disk. The disk has a program that the motorist uses to connect to the system that allows auction participants to bid, using the account number. The applicant has only three chances to bid, at 100 yuan a pop."

In March, the average price that a resident paid for a Shanghai plate reached an all-time high of almost 92,000 yuan.

This month the city was determined that the price of license plates come down.

Not only did they auctioned off 2,000 more plates than in March (a total of 11,000), they also announced new regulations including reserving new plates for new cars and organizing separate auctions for individual and corporate participants.

Shanghai authorities also set price ceilings at various stages of the auction.

At the April auction, which took place last Saturday, the average price paid fell to 84,100 yuan, down almost 7,800 yuan on the average price in March. It was also the first drop after nine consecutive months of price increases.


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