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Car Plate Number for Sabah, Malaysia

Car plate numbers are an essential aspect of vehicle identification and registration in Malaysia. Each state in the country has its unique car plate number format, allowing for easy recognition of a vehicle’s origin.

In this article, we will focus on Sabah, a state located in the northern part of Borneo Island, known for its diverse landscapes, rich biodiversity, and vibrant culture. We will explore the car plate number format for Sabah, highlight major cities in the state, and provide insights into the process of obtaining a car plate number in Sabah.

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Car Plate Number Format for Sabah

All registration plates of Sabah (except Labuan) for private and commercial motorised vehicles with the exceptions of those used by taxis, vehicle dealers and diplomats follow a SDx #### x algorithm.

  • S – The constant prefix for all Sabahan number plates.
  • D – The division prefix. (e.g. : A = West Coast, T = Tawau)
  • x – The alphabetical sequences. (e.g. : A, B, C … X, Y, except Q & S are restricted for use)
  • # – The number sequence. (e.g. : 1, 2, 3 … 9998, 9999)

In Sabah, the car plate number format follows a distinct algorithm that sets it apart from the Peninsular Malaysian number plates. The format excludes the use of letters I, O, and Z, and it does not have any leading zeroes. Moreover, to minimize confusion with historical series from Sarawak and Sabah, the use of the letters Q and S is restricted as a suffix.

The majority of Sabah’s divisions employ the “S” prefix as a constant, followed by the division prefix and the number sequence. For example, the West Coast Division begins with “SA 1,” representing the initial registration. As the number sequence progresses and reaches “SA 9999,” an alphabetical sequence is added as a suffix, resulting in plates like “SA 1 A.”

Subsequently, when “SA 9999 Y” is achieved, a second alphabetical sequence is introduced on the right side of the division prefix, and the first alphabetical sequence is reset, leading to plates like “SAA 1 A.” As the sequence progresses, “SAA 9999 Y” is reached, and the second alphabetical sequence advances, resulting in plates like “SAB 1 A.”

However, on 23 May 2018, a change occurred as a response to the introduction of the suffix-less V series in Kuala Lumpur. The “SY” series was initiated after exhausting the “SAC 9999 F” series. Notably, Sabah historically used the “E” series, which bore no suffix and aligned with the number plate algorithm in Peninsular Malaysia. The “SY” series continued until “SY 9999” was registered on 20 April 2023. Subsequently, on 1 July 2023, the “SY” prefix was replaced by the “SJ” prefix.

The West Coast Division, encompassing populous cities like Kota Kinabalu and Penampang, features the most numerous number plate prefix in Sabah—the “SA” series.

Labuan, a Federal Territory that was once part of Sabah, follows a different car plate number format. It uses a standard “L” series based on the Peninsular Malaysian algorithm, distinguishing it from other divisions in Sabah.

History of Sabahan Registration Numbers


Historically, the vehicle number plate formats in Sabah, known as North Borneo before joining the Malaysian federation in 1963, underwent several revisions. During the Chartered Company rule, the number plates followed a format similar to that of Malaya, but with regional prefixes based on the capitals of the state’s divisions at the time. However, this old algorithm quickly reached its limits, as it only allowed combinations such as “D ####.”

After World War II and North Borneo’s declaration as a British Crown Colony, an “E” was added to the registration number prefix, resulting in new registration numbers like “ED ####.” Upon gaining independence and becoming part of the Malaysian federation, the “E” prefix was replaced by an “S” suffix, leading to the format “D #### S.” This change was likely made to avoid conflicts with the Singaporean “E” to “EZ” series used between 1972 and 1984. Additionally, the “S” suffix was added to prevent further conflicts with Peninsular Malaysian formats. The division prefix “J” representing Jesselton was replaced with an “A” prefix, signifying the West Coast Division following Jesselton’s renaming to Kota Kinabalu in 1967.

Labuan, which was previously under the Straits Settlements and had its own “L” series plates, came under the jurisdiction of North Borneo after 1946. The vehicle plates in Labuan were reformatted to align with the state’s number plate formats, adopting the “EL ####” and “L #### S” formats.

Despite their obsolescence, previously delisted ED #### and D #### S numbers, including those using the “J” division prefix, can still be registered for new vehicles without conflicting with the current number plate formats in the rest of Malaysia or Singapore.


From the early 1980s, new vehicle number plates in Sabah were issued in the current “SDx #### S” format.

Following the format change, Labuan plates were issued with the “SLx #### S” format. However, later in the mid-1990s, Labuan reinstated a format similar to its original Straits Settlements format, using “Lx ####,” after becoming an independent Federal Territory separate from Sabah in 1984.

In 2017, both Sandakan and Tawau Divisions exhausted their respective “SS 9999 Y” and “ST 9999 Y” series, leading to the issuance of “SSA 1 A” for Sandakan on 20 October 2017 and “STA 1 A” for Tawau on 19 December 2017. Sandakan and Tawau are the second and third Divisions in Sabah to complete the two-letter format.

In 2018, both Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan retired the suffix format, with Kota Kinabalu changing to the “SY” series after exhausting “SAC 9999 F,” and Sandakan adopting the “SM” series after reaching “SSA 9999 A.” In 2019, Tawau switched to the “SW” series after the official retirement of “STA 9999 A” on February 15, 2019.

How to Get a Car Plate Number in Sabah

To obtain a car plate number in Sabah, vehicle owners should follow these steps:

  1. Vehicle Registration: The vehicle owner must register the vehicle with the Road Transport Department (JPJ) in Sabah.
  2. Number Plate Application: After successful registration, the owner can apply for a car plate number in the SAx #### x format. The available combinations depend on the current availability and type of vehicle.
  3. Bidding Process (Optional): In certain cases, when multiple individuals desire the same special or attractive number plate, a bidding process may be conducted. Interested parties can bid for their preferred number, and the highest bidder gets the privilege of using that specific plate.
  4. Approval and Issuance: Once the application is processed and any necessary bidding completed, the JPJ will approve the chosen car plate number and issue it to the vehicle owner.
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Car plate numbers are a fundamental element of vehicle identification and traffic management in Sabah, Malaysia. Understanding the SAx #### x format is crucial for vehicle owners and traffic authorities in the state.

With its diverse landscapes and vibrant cities like Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, and Lahad Datu, Sabah provides a unique driving experience for residents and visitors alike. Obtaining a car plate number in Sabah involves a straightforward process through the JPJ, with optional bidding for special numbers.

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