Why you’re better off running no plate and the reason is not what you think.
With new cars costing, on average, upwards of $40,000, you want to do absolutely everything possible to keep your pride and joy as pristine . It’s literally going to be your second largest purchase, ever.
But, to drive your new car legally in 31 states, you need two front plates. That means ruining the look of your new car by drilling holes into the front and rear bumpers.
Most car manufacturers design in a place for your rear plate but rarely up front.
A few stubborn (for a good reason) car owners try a popular work around, mounting the license plate inside at the bottom right (or left) side of your windshield. It’s “mounted” in the front of your vehicle. Good enough, right?
Here’s why it’s still illegal, eligible for a ticket, why you should go no plate, and some clever workarounds if you want to stay “legal.”
Purpose of front plates
While most cars have vehicle identification numbers linked to the DMV (if it’s registered correctly) you still need at least one plate.
Plates are for identification. You might not be a car thief but, in the event of grand theft auto, plates enable law enforcement to find and track stolen vehicles.
Then, there are taxation purposes. With traditional toll booths going to the wayside, plates now serve as your toll payment, billed at your home address or linked account.
Mounted in your windshield, still illegal
Your state’s vehicle code spells out how your plates should be mounted. In California CVC 5200 states, “When two license plates are issued by the department for use upon a vehicle, they shall be attached to the vehicle for which they were issued, one in the front and the other in the rear.”
Your windshield is not your front.
While failure to display a front plate correctly carries a $197 base fine, you’ll probably get a smaller $50 fix-it ticket that must be signed off when presenting your car to an officer with plate correctly affixed.
Still want to break the law? Why no front plate is better than placing it on your windshield.
You might think a cop might cut you a break for placing your plate at the corner of your windshield. You might be skirting the law being upfront, trying not to hide anything.
Despite that, I’ve heard plenty of stories of friends and other car enthusiasts still getting a no front plate ticket for trying to pull that off.
First, a plate at the corner of your windshield is a safety hazard. In the event of a serious accident, that plate is a projectile. No need to spell out where it might land up.
A plate in your windshield just draws attention to your car and is a red flag for police. No front plate arguably looks out of place, not registering to the glancing eye of a distracted police officer.
If you’re going to risk it, just go no plate, but have it with you, for example in your glove box or trunk.
Clever workarounds that are “legal.”
Here’s how to have a front plate that’s car enthusiast friendly.
The first one’s pretty obvious, you can install one of those clever electronic hideaway systems like the video below. They even have cheaper non-electronic ones you pull out with your hands like this one linked here.
When you get to car meets you can hide it away, keeping your front looking factory.
They also have 3/4th size replica plates that, to a passing cop look a lot like a regular plate. But, with a smaller size, it might not mess the front end look all that much. It’s certainly more legal than no plate and is in the spirit of the law.
Check out Matt Farah’s Focus RS rocking the mini plate. Do you even notice?
Since only the state can mint real plates, you can’t exactly google where to get the above made. I’ve found where you can get the mini plate made, location linked here.
It’s where Matt got his plate made. It’s not exactly advertised on there site but if you ask, they’ll hook you up.
And, if all else fails, you can bite the bullet and drill you bumpers like everyone else.