Can You Drive Without A License Plate?

Driving without a valid license plate is illegal in all 50 states in the US. However, some states only require the back license plate—meaning you can legally drive without the front plate number in some states.

Just bought a car, how long can I drive without registration? The only time you can drive without a valid permanent plate number is a brief window, usually 10-30 days after you purchase a new car and are waiting for your permanent plates. Your dealership will give you a temporary plate number that will cover you during this period while you register a permanent plate number. But can you drive without a license plate?

You can drive without a license plate. It won’t prevent you from driving. Just that it is illegal to drive without any license plate.

no license plate loophole

What does the law say about driving without license plates?

There’s no standard, national, or federal law that addresses this issue. Each of the 50 states has to decide for themselves. However, license plate laws have to be simple and straightforward. License plates must be attached to the provided space on your vehicle, and they need to have current tags and be visible.

The States that mandate you drive with both the front and back license plate are primarily states in the Northern part of the State, except for Hawaii and Texas.

There are 19 US states that do not mandate residents to install front license plates. These states are located in the east and south parts of the country. They are;

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

Read Also: What size are license plate screws?

What is the consequences for driving without license plates?

Can I drive my car if my license plate was stolen? Will I get a ticket for driving without a plate? The consequences for driving with no license plate differs, depending on the state you live in. In some states like California, if you have registered your car and you simply don’t have a plate on it, the officers may only give you a verbal warning or a fix-it ticket between $100 to $200. In some other states, you may receive a heavy fine for driving without the license plate.

How long can you drive a vehicle without registration in Michigan? In all the 50 States, if your car is not registered and you are driving without a license plate after the brief window of 10-30 days, it is technically illegal, and you will go in for it.

Can I drive with a missing plate number? Driving without license plate or with a missing plate numbers prevents the ANPR systems and other road users from identifying your vehicle, should they require your car details. The state laws consider it illegal to drive with missing plate numbers that the ANPR systems cannot identify.

Even during the 30-day window, you still need to affix a paper plate on your car. The consequences may be severe if seen doing the following;

If you are caught doing any of the above, your license may be suspended, or you go in for it.

can i drive my car if my license plate was stolen

Read : What You Need to Know About License Plate Frame Size

Do you need a front license plate?

While all 50 states mandate you affix the rear license plate while driving, almost half of the states permit you to drive without the front license plate. If you want to drive without the front license plate, see your state’s law before you hit the road. You can find out by just checking the DMV/BMV websites. Even if it’s legal to drive without the front plate in your state, think of the benefits of driving with both front and rear license plates.

How long must I wait to get my license plate?

The exact time to wait for your license plate to arrive varies, depending on the state you live in. However, you will receive it within two to three weeks. If you did not receive it within 30 days, contact your Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) for an update on your license plate delivery. 

How long does it take to get custom plates?

Getting a custom license plate is a fun way of showing your ego or personalizing yourself. But do you know personalized plates are costlier and take longer to arrive? It usually takes 6-12 weeks to arrive—and that is if you are lucky.

If, however, you decide to go for custom license plates, you will need to renew your car registration. Your former registration should expire once your custom plates are available for your car. That’s why it takes pretty long for it to arrive, depending on the state you live in.

You should first check if the customized name you have in mind is available and permitted. Choosing an offensive name or one that is similar to an already existing one will delay the wait time. So, if you don’t want to add to the already 6-12 weeks, ensure you do not fall for any of these.

What are the requirements to get a license plate?

The first requirement for a permanent license plate is to officially register your car in the state. To register your car, you need to provide proof that you own the car, which should be in the form of a vehicle title and other paperwork, depending on your state.

For example, you will be asked to provide your vehicle title in your official name, evidence of insurance, driver’s license, and other details about the car, such as odometer reading, car make and model, and vehicle identification number (VIN).

What about driving without tags?

Your tags and license plates are two different things. You need both to drive legally in the States. License plates are metal rectangle plates with letters and numbers affixed at the front and back of the bumpers, and they are used for vehicle identifications, while a tag is a sticker that goes on the license plates and indicates that the vehicle registration is up to date.

Final words

If you have been following to this point, you will no longer ask can you drive without a license plate. License plates won’t stop you from driving, but in all 50 states, it is illegal to drive without a rear license plate.

Number plate fell off; can I drive? Clearly, there are two sides of the coin. You are mandated to drive with the rear license plate. But it is legal to drive without the front license plate in 19 states.

Not only do each state have its individual laws after license plates, but they are changing. For example, Ohio recently amended its laws and allowed drivers to go “plateless”, at least at the front. 

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Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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