Do I need a front license plate and how do you mount it?
Updated: Jul 20
Did you just going through the excitement of driving your shiny new car (or new to you) car off the lot? Is it time for the dreaded process of registering your new pride and joy? As warm and fuzzy as buying a new car can be, it can leave your wallet feeling a little emotionally drained, so during the process of registering your vehicle you might be trying to reduce any extraneous costs by being compliant with the laws in your state.
Depending on where you live, the need to display a front license plate and decision whether or not to comply with your state law may have financial implications. We will help educate you on which states have the front plate requirement, why they are required, how to mount it, and the fines and penalties associated with opting out of the front end ornament.
Every State with a Front License Plate Requirement
There are 30 states that currently require 2 license plates on motor vehicles. These states that require front license plates are:
Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawai, Idaho, Illinois, Iow, Main, 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 and Wyoming.
States that Only Require a Rear License Plate
With Ohio joining the ranks of the states that only require a rear plate as of July 2020, there are officially 20 states that have the requirement only one plate. Those states are:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia
Why the Front License Plate Requirement?
The pro and cons of adding a front license plate are heavily debated among drivers.
The pro plate propagators state that the front plate aids law enforcement in criminal apprehension public safety, and toll revenue. In market research done by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (2012), they found that the addition of a front plate allowed officers to more easily identify vehicles directly affecting their ability to enforce varying traffic laws more efficiently.
With public safety in mind, the reflective nature of the front plate can increase the visibility of the car to other drivers on the road and allow for some type of road guidance for those that forget to turn on their headlights while driving in the dark.
Lastly, the two plate system also doubles the opportunity for capture of license plates with automated systems such as cameras and laser radars, which can be particularly helpful in fining for toll violations and red-light violations. To emphasis this point, let’s take the two plate state of Virginia. Even though their residents are required to have a front license plate, not all of their tolling facilities have the equipment to read the both the plates. Out of 1,914,000 total toll violations in 2011, the ability to read the front plate contributed to 539,000 toll violation that could not be processed due to lack of photographic evidence. The insufficiency of proof leads to an inability to collect on these fines which have proven a significant revenue generator for the state.
Now, the con, the most obvious and glaring con: Aesthetics. Car enthusiasts and collectors alike with their classic cars, elegant high-end luxury vehicles, and sleek sports cars would shudder at the idea of destroying and vandalizing the personality of their car with clunky bolts on their front bumper.
How to Mount a Front License Plate
Now, if you’re in a state that requires a front plate, your next question may be how do you mount it? Well, the answer to this question is dependent on a couple factors: if your vehicle has an existing front plate bracket and if it doesn’t, whether or not you don’t mind drilling and damaging the front bumper. No matter the method you choose, prior to installation, it is important to look up your state’s specific display requirements because each state is different!
If the addition of a couple hole in your front bumper doesn’t bother you and are feeling confident in your abilities to installing a front bracket, keep reading for step by step instructions. If you aren’t a handyman or handywoman, you can check with your dealership or find a local mechanic to see if they can assist you.
Gather up the supplies you will need: tape or a felt-tip pen, a tape measure, a drill, a 1/8 inch drill bit, a screwdriver, a level, your license plate, and the license plate bracket. If you have chosen to put the license plate directly onto the car, disregard the need for a bracket.
After you have gathered your supplies, measure the length of you bumper to determine where the center is and mark this location with a felt tip pen or a piece of tape.
Next, take your bracket and center it on the mark that you just made. Once you have it centered, take your pen and mark inside the mounting holes on the bracket. This will either be two hole or four depending on the bracket you have purchased. Once this is done, put your bracket aside, and using a level make sure the guide holes marked are level. If you are just mounting the plate directly to the front end of the vehicle, follow the same procedure but with the hole on the license instead.
Once you are feeling good about your measurements, take your 1/8 inch drill bit and drill holes into the guide holes you marked in step 3. When drilling, keep the drill at a 90 degree angle and keep the holes shallow.
Now that the hard part is over, take your bracket and line it up with the hole you have just made. Next, take your screwdriver and twist the screws in, in a clockwise direction.
Now that your bracket is mounted, attached your license plate to mount with the remaining screws provided.
Mounting a Front License Plate without Drilling or Damage
If you prefer to maintain the integrity of your front bumper or are not particularly savvy with power tools, there are other easier options.
An adhesive mounting bracket is a mounting bracket that uses a strong adhesive to directly adhere to the front bumper. Be advised, not all mounting bracket are universal, so make sure to do your research online and with your local automotive prior to purchasing.
A tow hook bracket attaches the mounting bracket to the tow hook anchor, which is usually located on the left or right side of the front bumper. Installation is generally an easy process and only requires a little elbow grease to screw in the tow hook stud and a screwdriver for the bracket. Note, not all vehicle have a tow hook anchor so double-check if your vehicle is equipped with this feature before purchasing the bracket.
A magnetic mount uses strong magnets to attach the mount to the front bumper.
Fines and Penalties for No Front License Plate
If you would prefer to keep your vehicle’s front end looking pristine and sleek, then you do have another option if you do not mind the risk and expense associated with being ticketed by local law enforcement.
The financial consequence for the infraction is dependent on the state in which you reside but typically varies between $75 to $200. Just a reminder, each time you are pulled over for violating front plate laws, you will have to pay the fine which can add up to a hefty sum in the long run.
Getting a Custom Front License Plate when Permitted
If you’re in a one plate state and you are wanting to add some pizazz and personality to your car, a custom license plate on your front bumper is a great way to do it! Personalized license plates online range from state flags and the American flag to monogram letters and flowers to LED plates with color changing light and electronic plates you can program!
Although the vanity plate world is your oyster, just make sure to keep it in good taste because police officers and other drivers may not appreciate the creative inappropriateness that you have put on your car.
To get some ideas, Pinterest is a great place to start. Once you have an idea in mind, a couple places we recommend checking out for customized plates, car accessories and products, and license plate frames:
Everyone’s favorite: Amazon. There are hundreds of different options, varying prices, and fast shipping available!
Etsy is a worldwide marketplace full of driven and creative business owners that offer vanity license plates that you can customize based on color, font, words and design.
Build a Sign is another online seller that offers license plate templates and bumper stickers you can customize.
Here are just a few examples:
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