Ask Laz: Do we need to put front license plates on cars?

You're taking your chances if you hit the road in California without a front license plate.

You’re taking your chances if you hit the road in California without a front license plate.


Shayla says she was recently ticketed for not having a license plate on the front of her car, only the back.

“But what if you were issued only one?” she asks.

Short answer: Then it’s your responsibility to get that second one.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions


Here’s what the state Department of Motor Vehicles has to say:

“Vehicles registered in California must display valid license plates as evidence of current registration. Passenger vehicles display two license plates -- one plate on the front of the car and one plate on the back of the car.”

The agency also says that it will issue “the appropriate number of license plates when you register your vehicle.”

So if you don’t have two license plates, you’ll need to explain where that second one is. It’s possible a traffic court judge would cut you some slack and accept that the DMV might have messed things up -- I know, imagine that -- but you’ll still need to score that second plate.


And now you’re wondering: So how come I always see cars, especially fancy, luxury cars, without license plates?

That’s a slightly different thing.

New-car buyers in California are issued temporary registration permits that get tucked away in a corner of the front windshield. They have 90 days to get their permanent license plates installed.

In the meantime, they can cruise the streets without any means of identification by others.


If you have a consumer question, email me at or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.


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