Sometimes I See Cars Without a License Plate, Is That Legal?

Last Updated on May 13, 2021

We all know that we’re supposed to have license plates on our cars, but you’ve probably seen cars driving around without them in the past. Most of the time, it’s illegal to drive without a license plate. However, there are some key exceptions to this rule. Here’s what you need to know about license plate laws and why it’s important to have them.

Sometimes I See Cars Without a License Plate, Is That Legal?

When Am I Allowed to Drive Without a License Plate?

There are some instances in which you can drive without a license plate – namely when your car is new. Every state has laws with temporary provisions for how long you can go without a license plate after purchasing a car. California’s are the most notable – currently, you can go without plates until the vehicle is registered, which must be done 90 days after purchasing the car. Up until a few years ago, drivers had six months to put plates on their car, and it was very common to see cars on the road without them. However, even if you don’t legally need the plates on the outside of your car, you’ll still need a temporary license displayed in your front or back window. Even though you can drive legally without a license plate in many cases, there are plenty of arguments for why you shouldn’t do this. It’s best to get your license plates as soon as possible so you don’t have to worry about any legal consequences.

Why Are License Plates Important?

License plates are important for a number of different reasons. The most important benefit is that cars can be identified from a distance, which makes it much easier for law enforcement to identify criminals and properly track them down. For example, when everyone has a license plate, it’s easier for police to track criminals after a car accident, vehicle theft, kidnapping, or other crime. Requiring drivers to have license plates also makes it far less likely for the wrong person to be apprehended for a crime. Many cars look alike, but visible license plate numbers make it much easier to differentiate between vehicles. Many states will also use license plate numbers to track toll payments and find drivers that have used toll roads without paying.

License plates are also very important because they’ll prevent you from getting in trouble if you get pulled over for any other reason. If you’re already in trouble for speeding or for a parking violation, you could end up receiving a much more expensive ticket for driving without a license plate. Although getting new license plates when you get a new car can be a bit of an inconvenience, it’s worth taking the time now to avoid harsh penalties later on.

What Happens If I Get Caught Driving Without a License Plate?

The penalties for driving without a license plate differ depending on where you live. If you don’t have a license plate on the outside of your vehicle, you must always have a temporary one displayed in the window. Typically, if you get caught driving without plates you will be charged a fine. However, the severity of the fine will depend on the severity of the situation. For example, if you get caught driving with expired temporary plates in your windows, the fine will be much lower than if you were caught driving without any plates at all. The worst-case scenario is if you’re caught driving without any plates and without a valid license – this will typically lead to very high fines. In some very severe cases, you could even lose your license or have it suspended if you’re caught driving without plates. However, this typically only occurs if you have other violations on your record.

How Do I Register and Get License Plates?

Before you purchase or lease a new car, be sure to check your state’s requirements regarding license plate registration. You can use this to figure out how long you have to get your registration and plates set up before you could potentially encounter legal consequences. During the time before you get your official plates, make sure you display your temporary ones on the inside of your windshield to prevent any issues should you get pulled over. Depending on what state you live in, you’ll need to display tags in either the front or the back of the car, or both.

To get your license plates, you will need to register your car with your local DMV. Before going to the DMV in person, you should visit their website and see what documents you’ll need to bring in order to get your car registered. In some cases, you may be able to complete some of the paperwork online ahead of time.

When you go to the DMV, you’ll typically need to bring your car’s title, your inspection documents, and the bill of sale for your car. You will also need to pay some standard fees to get your license plate. If you want vanity plates, you will need to pay extra. It normally takes a little bit of time before your license is fully processed and you can get your plates.

It’s crucial to make sure you get your license plates within the required time frame for your state. However, all states do have a window during which you can drive without plates. This will give you a reasonable amount of time to make sure you get your new plates without having to scramble.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
Back to Top