Which States Require Front License Plates?

Some states require a front license plate, while others require only a rear plate. Know the rules for your state so you don’t get slapped with a fine.
While having a plate on the front of a motor vehicle may be more convenient for law enforcement, it is an extra plate to mount, and nobody needs that unless it’s required.

Let’s delve deeper into front license plate laws and requirements.
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States That Require a Front License Plate

Currently, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia require you to have a front license plate attached to your vehicle. In 2020, Ohio removed its front plate requirement.

Here's the list of states that currently require front license plates:

State-by-state plate laws can vary significantly. For example, some states require you to remove a license plate when you sell your car, while others tell you to leave it on. Some states have 7 characters on their license plates, while others have six.

Good thing we're here to sort it all out for you.

Front Plate Laws

While license plate laws will vary by state, there are plenty of general laws that will apply to all two plate states. So, whether you're applying for new plates in California or Maine, these common threads will help you navigate the realm of license plate requirements.


Every state requires that your license plate be visible. The main difference between front and rear license plates is that rear license plates must be illuminated at night.

License plates must be visible at all times. Any brackets, covers, or frames that obscure license plate numbers, registration stickers, or state information are prohibited.

If your plate is scratched, dented, or damaged, you will have to apply for a replacement license plate.


There are regulations regarding license plate placement. The height at which plates must be mounted is the most common example. Most places have a maximum and minimum height for license plate mounting. For instance, license plates in Alaska need to be mounted not less than 12 inches from the ground, measured from the bottom of the plate.

You might get a ticket if you mount your plate too high or too low. Even though it is common practice in some areas, mounting the plate in your front or rear window is often a punishable offense.

It is also illegal to drive without a license plate when one is required. Temporary license plates are an exception. They are often paper tags that can be taped to the inside of your windshield.


License plates should be securely fastened to a strong part of the passenger vehicle. Zip ties and duct tape are useful for some things, but attaching a license plate with one of those methods could result in a fine.
Some vehicles do not come with a front license plate mounting location, but you can often get aftermarket or OEM brackets that attach to your front bumper. Many people buy license plate brackets that screw into the front tow hook location if their vehicle has one.

Read our complete guide to attaching a license plate for more.

Most Common Penalties for License Plate Non Compliance

Failure to comply with license plate regulations can get you in trouble.

1. Fines are the most common punishment for license plate violations. In some cases, fines may begin relatively low but can escalate for repeated violations.
2. Failure to comply with license plate regulations may result in a traffic citation or ticket. These citations frequently carry additional fines in addition to the initial penalty for driving without a front plate. Multiple citations can result in more severe penalties, such as increased fines, license suspension, or even mandatory court appearances.
3. In some states, failure to comply with license plate regulations can get your vehicle registration suspended. This means you won't be able to legally drive the vehicle until the registration is reinstated, which usually entails paying any outstanding fines, correcting the license plate violation, and possibly providing proof of compliance.
4. In more serious cases of license plate noncompliance, authorities may impound your vehicle. This happens when a violation is deemed significant or repeated, posing a risk to public safety. You will most likely be required to pay impound fees, provide proof of compliance, and settle any outstanding fines in order to retrieve the impounded vehicle.
5. License plate violations can result in points being added to your driving record. These points can result in higher insurance premiums and, if accumulated to a certain threshold, can result in your driver's license being suspended or revoked.

To avoid these penalties, it is important to become familiar with your state's regulations and ensure that your license plates are fully compliant.

Pros and Cons of Having a Front License Plate

Front-mounted license plates draw both praise and criticism from drivers. While some complaints are valid, there are notable advantages to having license plates on the front of a vehicle. However, it's important to acknowledge that there are also disadvantages.


Front license plates are made to be reflective. This makes them easier to see at night or during the dusk hours as the sun sets.
Having a front plate helps law enforcement officials identify stolen vehicles quickly. Visible front plates can also help regular citizens identify offenders in hit-and-runs, kidnappings, and other crimes. Plates that are easily visible can assist onlookers in effectively providing details about specific vehicles involved.
Having a license plate that can be read from the front and back of any vehicle makes it easier for agencies that use license plate reading technology to spot at toll booths and during traffic enforcement.
States that do not have front license plate laws risk losing out on revenue that can be easily generated at toll booths. If a license plate reader is unable to read a plate, the driver will not be charged. It is as simple as that.


One of the most common complaints about front license plates is that they detract from the overall appearance of a vehicle. Folks want their cars to be clean, presentable, and uncluttered.
Front license plates may impair sensors—lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and pedestrian detection—that are on the front of a vehicle.
A front plate is more susceptible to damage from rocks, debris or other objects on the road.
Wondering how to mount a front license plate with no holes? Our guide will tell you.

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Front Plates FAQ

How do I mount my new license plates?

The process of attaching a license plate to a car is relatively simple and can be done in a few minutes once you have the right mounting hardware and tools.

Before attaching a license plate, make sure that the plate bracket is properly secured to the vehicle.

1. The license plate bracket should be placed so that the bottom edge of the license plate is level with the bottom of the car's bumper. Once the license plate bracket is in place, line up the mounting hole on the license plate with the mounting hole in the bracket.
2. Be sure to use any bolts or screws that came with the license plate bracket.
3. After all screws or bolts are tightened, double-check that they are snug by giving the license plate a firm tug.
4. Once the plate is securely in place, you will need to apply the registration sticker from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or your state’s equivalent organization. This sticker must be placed on the rear license plate and renewed every year.
5. With the license plate now properly attached, your car will be legal to drive on public roads.
6. If your state requires a front plate, you will need to install it before you can legally drive your car.
7. In most cases, it is best to attach the front plate to the bumper and the rear plate to the trunk lid or tail light assembly.
If you’re wondering what to do with your old plates, one option is to simply send the old plates back to one of your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle office locations.

If you need more help, make sure you read our license plate mounting guide.

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