These 30 States Require Both Front & Rear License Plates

When we think about license plates, we probably don’t categorize them as one of those

hot-button topics that inevitably get thrown around at family get togethers or happy hours with colleagues. However, you might be surprised to learn that there are a lot of opinions surrounding the need for front license plates. In fact, the country is quite divided when it comes to the front and rear license plate laws, with 30 states requiring both front and rear plates and the remaining states requiring only rear plates. Of course, all states require cars to have rear license plates, but those which also require an additional plate in the front of the vehicle are considered “two-plate states.”

To see if yours is a two-plate state, refer to our list below.

The below 30 states (and Washington, D.C.) require both front and rear license plates:

  1. Alaska
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Hawaii
  6. Idaho
  7. Illinois
  8. Iowa
  9. Maine
  10. Maryland
  11. Massachusetts
  12. Minnesota
  13. Missouri
  14. Montana
  15. Nebraska
  16. Nevada
  17. New Hampshire
  18. New Jersey
  19. New York
  20. North Dakota
  21. Oregon
  22. Rhode Island
  23. South Dakota
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Vermont
  27. Virginia
  28. Washington
  29. Washington, D.C.
  30. Wisconsin
  31. Wyoming


The below 20 are single plate states that require rear license plates only:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Delaware
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Indiana
  8. Kansas
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. Michigan
  12. Mississippi
  13. New Mexico
  14. North Carolina
  15. Ohio
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Pennsylvania
  18. South Carolina
  19. Tennessee
  20. West Virginia

Split opinions

Now, why is it that the question of single or double plates seems to garner such strong opinions? There are several reasons why one camp is in favor of two-plate laws and another is against them. Read on to see some of the arguments for and against two-plate laws.


Benefits of two-plate laws:

  • Assists law enforcement

Two plates are better than one when it comes to license plate-reading technology. From catching those speeding to identifying stolen vehicles, law enforcement greatly benefits from two-plate laws. Further, civilians can better assist law enforcement, as the second plate makes it easier to make note of a plate number in order to report traffic accidents and more.

  • Increased visibility

The requirement of front license plates provides an additional safety feature, as the plates themselves are made out of reflective material.

  • Better readability

With two plates, it’s easier to photograph those speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and those who drive off without paying tolls or parking fees. Many toll booths now operate on an automatic system which benefits from the additional license plate, as many rely on license plate-reading technology. If a bad read is taken from the rear plate, the technology can likely get a clear read on the front plate (and vice-versa). Specifically, according to, 16 percent of rear plates in Pennsylvania, a one-plate state, were electronically unreadable on the state’s toll roads.

  • Personalization

Many people choose to swap out their pre-assigned license plate number for a vanity plate, which allows the driver to pay for a unique set of numbers and letters. These plates can show off a driver’s personality, highlight a standout feature of the vehicle, or help to market a business. They may even be an investment worth millions (yes, millions!).

Drawbacks of two-plate laws

  • Aesthetics

Perhaps one of the main reasons car owners are against an additional front plate is for the overall look; when your car is your pride and joy, the last thing you want to do is slap a license plate onto the face of your car. As a workaround, some install alternatives such as flip plates, or retractable plates, which keep front plates hidden until the driver chooses to display them. These, of course, have implications and may not be a legal fix depending on state law. Thankfully, some manufacturers have taken a more proactive approach to front plate hate. Nearly ten years ago, Chevrolet began providing an optional, removable front license plate bracket on the Corvette without sacrificing the car’s iconic sleek, sporty look.

  • Potential damage

Understandably so, many car enthusiasts are unwilling to drill holes in the front of their luxury vehicles or classic cars in order to mount license plate brackets. They argue that this affects not only the appearance but also the value of the cars. Luckily, two-plate states like Texas allow eligible drivers to apply for a single rear plate in the event that they drive an “antique” car, which must be at least 25 years or older.

  • More work for drivers

Certain manufacturers, such as Tesla, don’t provide pre-installed front license brackets; rather, these cars come with adhesive brackets which must be manually installed to cars in two-plate states.

  • Increased costs

It goes without saying, but two plates cost more than one. While this isn’t likely to break the bank, the requirement of a front plate does come at an additional cost.

  • Compromised safety features

Some argue that modern safety features, such as lane-keeping assist and pedestrian detection systems, are compromised by the presence of front plates. That’s because the sensors which these technologies rely on are typically located toward the front of the vehicle, which can be blocked by front plates.

A matter of law

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the law is the law, and it is illegal to drive without a front license plate in the above 30 states (and Washington, D.C.). For the most part, both plates must be affixed at all times, and if one or both aren’t present, you may be pulled over by a police officer and ticketed. Even if you aren’t physically pulled over, you may still receive a fine in the mail.

Of course, specific penalties vary from state to state, but you can expect a “fix-it” ticket or a fine of up to $200 or more. If a fix-it ticket is issued, the ticket may be thrown out on the condition that the violation has been quickly corrected; failure to correct the front plate issue could result in further tickets.

The good news? These fines are completely avoidable, so be sure to check with your state’s laws to ensure you’re in compliance.

Jason L Arthur

Jason L Arthur

Jason Arthur is a data junkie, writer, veteran amateur racecar driver and motorsport photographer. He is the co-founder of LookupaPlate, a collaborative platform to report bad drivers plying on American roads. He is also building a blockchain-based vehicle data marketplace (in stealth mode) and is an adviser to several startups. Jason has been tracking the automotive industry since the 1990s and has a disturbingly deep obsession with the automotive world, and loves to explore whatever roads he can find. From high-speed racing on the circuit to off-road exploration, Jason has an insatiable appetite for adventure. Jason has written for numerous publications, including Autocar Magazine, Motorsport Magazine, and Road & Track.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *