License Plate Requirements in the USA

Many American states are now strictly enforcing laws that require vehicles to display two license plates (on the rear and front of the vehicle). One possible benefit of front license plates is to increase the effectiveness of red-light cameras, which work only if a vehicle can be linked back to its registered owner. Opponents of two license plates usually do not like front plates on certain sports cars and historic cars because of their visual obtrusiveness from the vehicle. They argue that they add cost to production, use resources (metal), create double the amount of waste and do not give police any extra tool in recovering stolen vehicles. This is exactly where flexyframe® assists in preventing unsightly dents, scratches and dings on your automobile.

States that require a front license plate

Alaska

Alaska law requires motor vehicles to display two license plates. A month tab and a current year tab must be displayed on the back plate, only.  Motorcycles and trailers have one license plate with month and year tabs.  If you have a passenger vehicle, motorhome, truck or van with only one plate, click duplicate plates for procedures to obtain the correct plates.

California

California is one of an increasing number of states whose law requiring a front license plate on all vehicles is being petitioned. The petitions are traditionally the result of effort put forth by motorists and car auto enthusiasts who prefer the clean, unobstructed viewing of the front fascia and grille of their vehicle and see little or no practicality in having a front plate on display. Some argue that the presence of a front license plate means unnecessary damage when mounting hardware comes into contact with the bumper of another vehicle. Others argue about whether or not the U.S. front plate interferes with the vehicle's cooling system when mounted in the traditional location (versus, for example, a slimmer European plate). Some also feel the placement of the front plate interferes with a vehicle's aerodynamics; creating more cabin noise by the increased drag, as well as contributing to reduced fuel mileage. Variations on placement include displaying the front plate inside the vehicle between the dashboard and front windshield, having both a state-issued and vanity plate insert on display, and having only a vanity plate insert on display. Police officers frequently cite motorists whose vehicles do not comply with California Vehicle Code section 5200, giving the offender the opportunity to correct the offense. Don't fight the law. Get flexyframe® to take care of the seamless integration into your car design.

Colorado

All registered vehicles in Colorado must display front and back license plates. Colorado has standard issue plates and special plates available. Many plate styles can be personalized. For more information and images of plates within each category, please click the category's thumbnail image or the underlined plate name.  The categories are also listed to the left.

Connecticut

The first and most basic Connecticut license plate laws that you need to know is that any vehicle in use or operation on a public highway must have a valid, state issued license plate, or number plate as it is often referred to. Of the two plates issued, one must be displayed on the front of the vehicle and one on the rear. The law says that they must be totally unobscured and that the letters and numbers must be legible at all times. If the vehicle is required to display lights, the rear plate must be illuminated so that it is readable from a distance of fifty feet away. 

Connecticut license plate laws state that if the plate or plates are lost or damaged the owner of the vehicle must place a temporary plate with the registration information on the vehicle and apply for a new plate within 48 hours. When new plates are issued the old ones should be returned. The law provides penalties for anyone who willingly attempts to damage or destroy a license plate. Also if a vehicle is not reregistered on time, the plates must be turned in within ten days. 

Connecticut license plate laws also regulate the issue of specialty plates. There are several different types of license plates, from those that bestow special parking privileges, such as plates and placards for disabled drivers, to vanity plates that allow you to express yourself to special plates that display your allegiance to an organization or charity. While most plates are available to anyone willing to pay the fee, some plates have eligibility requirements that must be met. 

Hawaii

Hawaii license plate laws require two license plates on passenger vehicles – one on the front of the car and another to the rear.

Idaho

Technically, you can drive your car without a front license plate in Idaho but you have to make your vehicle legal to drive without a front license plate. You need to register under a specific program and you do not have to display a front plate (some limited use). It is much easier to buy a flexyframe®.

Illinois

Passenger vehicles, trucks and vans must display two plates, one on the front and one on the rear. Most other vehicles are required to have two license plates. License plate frames should not cover any of the information on the license plates. License plates covers are not allowed.

Iowa

Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle other than a motorcycle, motorized bicycle or a truck tractor shall be attached to the motor vehicle, one in the front and the other in the rear. The registration plate issued for a motorcycle or other vehicle required to be registered hereunder shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The registration plate issued for a truck tractor shall be attached to the front of the truck tractor. The special plate issued to a dealer shall be attached on the rear of the vehicle when operated on the highways of this state.

Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle which is model year 1948 or older, and reconstructed or specially constructed vehicles built to resemble a model year 1948 vehicle or older, other than a truck registered for more than five tons, motorcycle, or truck tractor, may display one registration plate on the rear of the vehicle if the other registration plate issued to the vehicle is carried in the vehicle at all times when the vehicle is operated on a public highway.

It is unlawful for the owner of a vehicle to place any frame around or over the registration plate which does not permit full view of all numerals and letters printed on the registration plate.

Maine

A registration plate must be displayed horizontally. Only one set of Maine registration plates may be displayed on one vehicle. A registration plate must be attached to the front and the rear of each vehicle except as follows.

Maryland

Maryland license plate laws require that two plates be displayed on all registered passenger vehicles. One plate is to be displayed on the front of the vehicle and one to be displayed in the rear. The law stipulates that use, advertising and sale of license plate covers that distort a recorded image of any of the characters of a vehicle’s registration plate recorded by a traffic control signal monitoring system is illegal. Maryland allows for cameras to photograph vehicles that speed through intersections or run red lights and the camera must be able to accurately photograph the license plates, the license plates are used to identify the driver, or registered owner of the vehicle. 

Massachusetts

It costs $36 to get your first set of plates―Massachusetts requires both front and rear plates―and $41 for renewal. But Massachusetts offers a lot of options for vehicle owners to show their allegiances with fellow veterans, their favorite sports teams and the environment. Or you can create your own vanity plate. Of course, many of these plates are more expensive, but often the fees help pay for associated charities and funds.

Minnesota

Only if the vehicle is a motorcycle, motor scooter, motorized bicycle, motorcycle sidecar, trailer registered at greater than 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), semitrailer, or vehicle displaying a dealer plate, then one license plate must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle.

Missouri

Missouri license plate laws require most vehicles, including passenger autos to have two license plates. All vehicles that are registered with the state are issued at least one license plate. This is to help authorities and others identify a vehicle and to indicate that applicable registration fees and taxes have been paid. Other information about the vehicle and/or the driver can sometimes be obtained by the license plate as well. Increasing in popularity are specialty plates, each state has several to choose from and cover a wide range of topics. 

Montana

All registered motor vehicles are required to display license plates. Some states require only that a rear plate be displayed and others, Montana requires two license plates, one in the front of the vehicle and one in the rear. This makes it easier for law enforcement officials to identify the vehicle. Throughout the last decade license plates have gone from being merely identification tags to also being forms of expression. With these changes has also come new legislation. In fact most of the more recent traffic laws address issues regarding these special plates, or tags. 

Montana license plate laws created a new standard plate for issuance in January of 2006. Once you title and register your vehicle, paying all applicable taxes and fees you will be issued two standard plates unless you request otherwise. If you choose to order special plates you must pay an additional fee. Some plates are available to anyone who registers a vehicle where others have requirements that must be met and an application procedure that must be followed. 

License plates stay with the owner and may be transferred to another vehicle as long as the vehicle is properly registered according to Montana license plate laws. Vintage and Pioneer plates are the exception and stay with the vehicle in the event that it is sold or traded. Vintage and Pioneer plates are for vehicles more than 30 years old and used solely as collector’s items. If the vehicle is sold out of state the law requires the plates be surrendered. 

License plates sponsored by qualified organizations, colleges or governmental bodies are designed with distinctive backgrounds, colors or phrases that identify the sponsoring organization. Montana license plate laws require annual registration for those wishing to have sponsored plates. There is no special process to apply or renew these plates. 

Nebraska

While the big sky state once set their daytime speed limits to "reasonable and prudent," their license plate laws are a little more stringent, requiring drivers to display both a rear and front plate. Decals , magnetic car signs , and vehicle lettering are all still permitted.

Nevada

Motor vehicle registration and license plate issuance are two important topics of state legislation that fall within the jurisdiction of state and local governments. All vehicles that are registered with the state are issued at least one license plate. This is to help authorities and others identify a vehicle and to indicate that applicable registration fees and taxes have been paid. 

Nevada license plate laws deem that all motor vehicles, except for motorcycles and trailers are issued two license plates. These plates should be displayed conspicuously on the front and rear of the vehicle. Remeber: What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.  There should be no obstruction of the view of the numbers and letters on the plate. During the day the plates need to be readable from 100 feet away and at night they should be readable from 110 feet and be clearly visible from 1,500 feet when lit by standard headlights. Any type of plate or cover that would not allow this to be possible is prohibited. 

If you are new to the state Nevada license plate laws require that you register your vehicle and obtain plates within 60 days of moving. If you purchase a vehicle from a private party or out of state dealer you have 30 days to obtain your plates and register the vehicle. When registering you will be given registration decals to be placed in the upper right hand corner of the rear plate. Your registration expires and must be renewed by the date that is printed, not the end of the month. 

In Nevada, license plates are issued to businesses and to people, not the vehicle. If you trade or sell your vehicle you would keep the plates to put on your new vehicle or you would turn them in to the DMV within 60 days according to Nevada license plate laws. 

New Hampshire

The very first time you register your vehicle in New Hampshire you will be given license plates. In some states you might call them tags, but in New Hampshire they are license plates. Displaying the license plates on your car, with a current decal, will prove that you have a valid NH registration.

It is against the Vehicle Code and NH Statutes to drive a vehicle on the highway without license plates.

When you register your vehicle you will be given two license plates for your car―one for the front and one for the back. Some town clerks will have the plates for you and if they don't you'll have to visit a DMV Substation.

New Jersey

When you title and register a vehicle, you will receive two license plates – one for the front and one for the rear of the car (trailers, motorized bicycles and motorcycles only receive one). 

They must be clean and visible at all times. Even though the rear plate is reflectorized, it must be illuminated to make it visible from 50 feet away at night. If your license plate holders obscure or conceal any lettering on the license plate, you are subject to a fine.

New York

New York's classic Empire State license plates come standard for $15 when you first register your vehicle. The Department of Motor Vehicles issues two such plates for cars and trucks or one plate for motorcycles and trailers.

North Dakota

North Dakota will issue you two standardized plates upon registering (motorcycles receive one plate). Generally these plates consist of a combination of five to seven numbers and letters on a standard state background featuring, the colors blue and gold. The registered owner must display two (2) license plates. The plates must be displayed horizontally and in an upright position, one in the front and one on the rear of the vehicle, each securely fastened. The bottom of each license plate must be at a height of not less than twelve (12) inches (30.48 centimeter) above the level surface upon which the vehicle stands. (39-04-11 NDCC).

Ohio

No person who is the owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall fail to display in plain view on the front and rear of the motor vehicle the distinctive number and registration mark, including any county identification sticker and any validation sticker issued under sections 4503.19 and 4503.191 of the Revised Code, furnished by the director of public safety, except that a manufacturer of motor vehicles or dealer therein, the holder of an in transit permit, and the owner or operator of a motorcycle, motorized bicycle, manufactured home, mobile home, trailer, or semitrailer shall display on the rear only. A motor vehicle that is issued two license plates shall display the validation sticker only on the rear license plate, except that a commercial tractor that does not receive an apportioned license plate under the international registration plan shall display the validation sticker on the front of the commercial tractor. An apportioned vehicle receiving an apportioned license plate under the international registration plan shall display the license plate only on the front of a commercial tractor and on the rear of all other vehicles. All license plates shall be securely fastened so as not to swing, and shall not be covered by any material that obstructs their visibility.

Oregon

A single license plate is issued to mopeds, motorcycles, trailers, campers, antique vehicles, and special interest vehicles, while two license plates are issued to all other types of vehicles registered by DMV, including passenger vehicles and trucks (See ORS 803.525).

If only one license plate is issued, it must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle.  If two plates are issued, one must be displayed on the front of the vehicle and the other on the rear of the vehicle.  Plates must be in plain view so as to be easily read by the public and law enforcement (See ORS 803.540).

License plates may not be altered and must not be covered by any material that alters their appearance.  Furthermore, plate frames or holders must not prevent the numbers, letters, or stickers from being readable (See ORS 803.550 for more information).

Rhode Island

If you lost one of your plates and the vehicle is registered in your name you must return the one remaining plate and obtain a new set of two plates with a different number. If you wish, you may order the original set to be remade. These will be re-issued to you after the mandatory 90-day waiting period, or about three months. You also need to bring your current Rhode Island drivers license and insurance information. If the vehicle is registered to a leasing company you will have to show a Power of Attorney form from the leasing company authorizing you to change the plate.

South Dakota

Texas

State law requires that you display two (2) license plates, one to the front and one to the rear. Placement or mounting of license plates is not defined.

This guidance is referenced in TXDOT's requirements to properly display the registration certificate. DPS does not inspect the license plate itself, but instead inspects the license plate lamp.

View Department Rules/Regulation Inspection criteria (View 04.20.00 Details of Inspection & Search for 20.18 License Plate Lamp)

Utah

All vehicles registered in Utah must display license plates, which you receive when you register your automobile for the first time at the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Cars and trucks will receive two plates, one for the front and one for the rear. Motorcycles and trailers will receive one plate. If you lose your plates or they are stolen (it happens), take your registration card to a local DMV office, pay $10 (for standard-issue plates), and get new plates of the same type. Note that it always costs more to have the DMV send you a license plate through the mail ($3 more for standard-issue plates and $8 more for special group plates, for example).

Utah has more than 30 types of license plates to choose from, not counting personalized plates, disabled plates, exempt plates, or historic plates. Even the standard-issue plates come in two varieties, depending on whether you prefer Utah's red rock geography or its snow. (The plain black lettering on white is no longer available, even though it's pictured on the description page.)

Vermont

Unless you notify DMV officials when registering your vehicle that you prefer special plates, you will be issued (2) standard Vermont plates. These feature white letters surrounded by a white rectangle on a green backdrop with a maple tree in the upper left corner and the "Green Mountain State" legend on the bottom.

If you register in person at the main DMV office in Montpelier, you will immediately receive your plates. If you apply through the mail, your plates will arrive in your mailbox in about three weeks.

Virginia

DMV will issue you two license plates, two decals showing the expiration date, and a registration card. Place the decals as indicated on the plates. Place the plates on the front and rear of your vehicle so that they are securely fastened and clearly visible. If your vehicle is a motorcycle, DMV will issue you just one license plate for the vehicle.

It is illegal to mount license plates frames, colored glass, plastic or any other type of covering on your license plates that alters or obscures the letters, numbers, decals or the state where the vehicle is registered, and when the registration expires.

Washington

The vehicle license number plates shall be attached conspicuously at the front and rear of each vehicle for which the same are issued and in such a manner that they can be plainly seen and read at all times. Each vehicle license number plate shall be placed or hung in a horizontal position at a distance of not more than four feet from the ground and shall be kept clean so as to be plainly seen and read at all times. In cases where the body construction of the vehicle is such that compliance with this section is impossible, permission to deviate therefrom may be granted by the state patrol. It shall be unlawful to display upon the front or rear of any vehicle, vehicle license number plate or plates other than those furnished by the director for such vehicle or to display upon any vehicle any vehicle license number plate or plates which have been in any manner changed, altered, disfigured or have become illegible. License plate frames may be used on vehicle license number plates only if the frames do not obscure license tabs or identifying letters or numbers on the plates and the plates can be plainly seen and read at all times. It is unlawful to use any holders, frames, or any materials that in any manner change, alter, or make the vehicle license number plates illegible. It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any vehicle unless there shall be displayed thereon valid vehicle license number plates attached as herein provided.

Wisconsin

State law requires that WisDOT issues two license plates, both plates must be attached to the vehicle, one on the front and one on the rear. The plates must be maintained in a legible condition and displayed so that they can be seen and read. License plate brackets that cover any part of the readable message on a license plate are illegal.

Wyoming

The State of Wyoming requires that (2) license plates are issued and regulated by the Wyoming Department of Transportation through its Motor Vehicle Services division. Wyoming license plates have included an image of a Bucking Horse and Rider since 1936, constituting the longest-running license plate motif in the world.