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Which States Require a Front License Plate?

By Shawn Furman | December 1, 2022

States That Require Front License Plates:

There are currently twenty-nine states, including Washington D.C., that require you to have a front license plate mounted on your vehicle.

In 2020, Ohio removed its front plate requirement.

Here's the complete list of states that currently require a front license plate:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States That Do Not Require a Front License Plate:

There are currently 21 states that do not require a front license plate. Even though every state requires at least one license plate to be mounted to each motor vehicle, each state that does not have a front plate requirement requires that a license plate be mounted in the rear of the vehicle.

The following is the list of states that do not currently require a front-mounted license plate:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Laws can vary drastically from state to state. Driving and vehicle ownership laws especially are ones that are highly variable, depending on where you live. If you never move, you may never have to worry about laws from other places. Many people do move, and laws change; therefore, it is important to know how laws change, when they change, and where they are enforced.

License plate laws are among the simplest and most controversial vehicle-related laws in the country. Over half of all states in the U.S. are “two-plate-states.” This means that you must have a license plate mounted on both the front of the vehicle and on the rear of the vehicle. Not having license plates properly installed or present when required could result in penalties.

For as trivial as this law might sound, there are some benefits to having a plate on the front of the vehicle. There are also some drawbacks. Every state requires a license plate to be mounted to the rear of the vehicle, but the law is not as simple as that. Come with us as we dive deeper into front license plate laws and requirements so that you can stay informed.

Front License Plate Pros and Cons:

There are several common complaints that drivers typically make concerning front-mounted license plates. Some of them are warranted, and others are not. Regardless, there are some real benefits to having license plates mounted to the front of a vehicle. Naturally, there are also some drawbacks.


License plates are designed to be reflective. This makes them easier to see at night or during the dusk hours when the sun begins to set. A license plate’s reflectivity is one argument that proponents of front license plates make. Even though they seem small when mounted to a vehicle, they are fairly sizeable objects, and they can be a great point of visibility.

Their clear visibility aids law enforcement offices that use license plate reading devices. Toll booths that utilize license plate readers are also becoming more widespread across the country. Toll booth attendants are slowly being replaced by technology for the sake of saving states that they would otherwise spend on wages and benefits.

Crime-Fighting Potential:
In addition to the license plate readers used by law enforcement and by government agencies for speeding, checking registration stickers, or tolling vehicles, having a front plate can help law enforcement officials identify stolen vehicles quickly.

Visible front plates can also help regular citizens who witness things like hit-and-runs, suspicious vehicles, and other untimely events more easily identify offenders. Easily visible plates can help onlookers effectively provide details about specific vehicles involved.

Revenue generation is one of the prime movers in any decision, consideration, or law. Having a license plate that is easily readable from the front and back of any vehicle makes it easier for agencies using license plate reading technology to spot at toll booths and during traffic enforcement.

Expressing Yourself:
Perhaps a less important factor in having a front license plate is the ability to purchase a vanity plate and express your own style. Vanity plates are license plates that are customizable with a message or background. Some plates even come with an extra fee that is put toward a cause or charity.

Each state offers vanity plates at different costs through each state’s DMV, and they are more popular in some states than others. If you can have two vanity plates instead of one, you can theoretically express yourself twice as well with the plates of your choosing.


One of the largest complaints against front license plates is that they ruin the aesthetic of a car. For many people, a vehicle is not just a tool to get from one place to another. They want to keep their vehicles in the nicest condition possible, and part of that is keeping them clean, presentable, and uncluttered.

It might sound silly, but if you are one who wants to keep your car looking as nice as possible, you get it.

Advanced Safety Features:
Advancements in safety technology are great. They help keep vehicles safer, and therefore, they keep everyone on the road safer. The problem is that systems like automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and pedestrian detection use cameras and sensors that are often mounted to the front of a vehicle.

Depending on the make and model of a vehicle, a front license plate could hinder some of these systems from working optimally or from working altogether. Manufacturers have had to compensate by cluttering up other areas of a vehicle’s grille and front bumper. This has again led to some undesirable aesthetics and interesting vehicle design. At worst, it prevents some of these systems from being as effective as possible.

On the flip side of the coin, states without front license plate laws are potentially missing out on that revenue that is easily generated at toll booths. If a license plate reader cannot read a plate, the driver will not get a bill. It is as simple as that.

Another consideration is that it costs more money to manufacture two license plates rather than just one. The extra cost of the extra plate is often said to offset the fees associated with owning and driving a vehicle in the first place. Depending on the state, this may or may not actually be true, but the fact remains that two cost more than one.

Because of some of the controversies and complaints associated with having front license plates, more people are going to naturally try to skirt the laws, find a loophole, or ignore front license plate laws altogether.

Those who attempt to get around the front license plate laws can certainly cause headaches for law enforcement officials whose job it is to enforce the laws. Additionally, those who want to get around the front plate laws can often get frustrated if or when they get penalized for something they feel is trivial. Many install retractable license plate brackets to get around front plate requirements.

License Plate Laws:

Even though state laws vary, there are some general laws that apply to most places when it comes to both front and rear license plates. The following are some overarching guidelines regarding license plate mounting, location, and visibility that are applicable in most states:

The most obvious law that every state has is that your license plate must be visible. This goes for both one-plate and two-plate states. The difference between front and rear plates is illumination at night. Rear license plates are usually required to be illuminated, but each state requires plates to be clearly visible from different distances, regardless of illumination requirements.

License plates are required to be uncovered. Any license plate brackets, tinted covers, or frames that obscure license plate numbers, registration stickers, or state information are a no-go.

Finally, most states require that a license plate is in reasonable condition. An overly beat-up, scratched, or dented plate could cause the reflective background to be less effective and less visible. Some states also have laws against altering or damaging the plate in any way beyond having customizable numbers.

License plates should be securely fastened to a sturdy part of the passenger vehicle in each location at which they are required. Zip ties and duct tape are great for some things but attaching a plate via one of those methods will potentially get you a citation in most locations. Most states also require that you do not mount your plate upside down.

Some vehicles do not come with a front license plate mounting location, but there are often aftermarket or OEM brackets that you can get that affix to your front bumper. Many people even purchase brackets that you can screw into the front tow hook location if your vehicle has one.

Beyond front and rear license plate mounting laws, there are other license plate requirements pertaining to the location of the plate. The most common of which is the height at which plates must be mounted. Most places have a maximum and minimum height at which plates can be mounted.

If you mount your plate too high or low, you might get a ticket. Additionally, “mounting” the plate in your front or rear window is often a punishable offense, even though it is commonly practiced in some places. Keeping the plate inside the vehicle would ultimately fall back on the visibility requirements each state has.

Of course, not having a plate mounted anywhere when it should be is also a punishable offense. Some exceptions can be made for temporary plates. They are often paper rather than metal, and can sometimes be taped on the inside of a window.

Penalties for License Plate Non-Compliance:

Just as different states have different mounting laws, each state has different penalties for various license plate violations. They can range from severe to minor, and the same law in one state can lead to much more serious consequences for the same law in another state.

In the case of front license plate violations, the spectrum is quite large. Some officers in some states will issue a fix-it ticket or warning for first-time violators. A fix-it ticket is essentially a placeholder ticket. Once you have fixed the issue that prompted the ticket, you can report the issue fixed, an official will verify the fix, and you can often have the ticket canceled.

Many officers will skip the warnings and go straight to fines. Not having a front license plate where one is required can result in a $200 fine in most places. Most other license plate violations will result in a more minor citation or a fix-it ticket, especially if the violation is clearly not intentional. Fortunately, most license plate violations will not increase your car insurance rates.

Keep in mind that if you do receive a fix-it ticket for a license plate violation, the conditions of the ticket will likely vary from location to location. You can clarify the timeframe required in which the fix must occur, how to get the fix inspected, and the final steps of canceling the ticket through your local law enforcement office.