Good Question: Do all cars need license plates in the front and back?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Do all cars need two license plates? Just like a driver’s license, you can’t legally drive without a pair of license plates on your car. But as one of you observed, it appears a lot of people are going without them.

Dennis writes: “It appears that there are thousands of vehicles driving around Monroe County with only one NYS plate on the back and nothing on the front. What is that about? Is that legal? Are people covering two vehicles with one set of plates?”

Section 402 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law says that there must be a license plate “on the front and one on the rear” of the car. They must be “securely fastened” to prevent them from swinging around.

If you’re seeing cars with only one plate, that is not legal. It’s also illegal to use one set of plates on two cars. A set of plates reflects the registration of one vehicle with the New York State DMV.

It’s possible that people driving around without two plates are in the process of replacing them due to peeling or other damage.

If you’re replacing your plates, or transferring ownership to someone else, you can apply for temporary plates on New York State DMV website here.

If you’re caught driving with only one plate or no plates on your car, the fine from the Rochester Traffic Violations Agency is typically $150.

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