Does Illinois Require Front License Plates?

Illinois requires front license plates for most passenger vehicles—and it’s especially important in cities with lots of car thefts. Learn more here!
Written by Pat Roache
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
The Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) requires drivers to display two copies of their valid
Illinois license plate
on their registered vehicle—one on the front of the car and one on the back. 
Whether your car has a front bracket for a license plate or not, you’ll need to find a way to display front and rear license plates if it's registered in Illinois. It may seem like a hassle, but the extra means for law enforcement to identify a vehicle is especially useful for combatting traffic violations and locating stolen vehicles.
Let's go over the front license plate laws in Illinois, from what’s required to why. We’ll even cover the theft rates in major Illinois cities and an easy way to lower your
Illinois car insurance costs

Does Illinois require front license plates?

Yes—the state of Illinois requires front and rear license plates to be displayed on most commercial and passenger vehicles.
The Illinois license plate display requirements can be found in Chapter 625 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes,
Section 5/3-413
. According to the law, all non-exempt motor vehicles registered in Illinois shall display one registration plate in the front and one in the rear. As such,
Section 5/3-412
requires the IL SOS to issue two plates to newly-registered vehicles.
Both the front and rear plates need to be displayed in a way so that the license plate number, the name of the state, the year in which the plate was issued, and the state motto, “Land of Lincoln,” are clearly visible at all times. These requirements also apply to personalized license plates and specialty plates, like those issued in association with a charitable donation. 

Exemptions

So what motor vehicles are exempt from Illinois two-plate law? For the most part, you can expect to receive two plates when registering a typical passenger car, van, or truck. And if you receive two plates, display two plates—the SOS isn’t in the practice of issuing spares!
However, the law outlines certain vehicles that will only be issued one license plate upon registration in Illinois and thus only need to display one plate. Those vehicles include:
  • Motorcycles
  • Trailers
  • Semitrailers
  • Mopeds
  • Autocycles
  • Truck-tractor
A unique section of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code—
Section 5/3-401.5
—also allows for the issuance of a digital license plate for particular vehicles. Only one digital license plate may be issued per registered vehicle, so non-exempt motor vehicles would still need to display at least one physical license plate in addition to a digital one. 
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What is the penalty for driving without a front license plate in Illinois?

Illinois law does not set any specific penalties for driving without a front license plate, which leaves it up to local law enforcement. Illinois residents have reported receiving tickets anywhere from $50 to $200 for not having a front license plate properly displayed. 
And you don’t necessarily need to be driving to be cited for failure to properly display both a front and rear license plate. A car registered in the state of Illinois could be left a ticket when parked on the street if both plates aren’t properly displayed
To avoid tickets, properly affix your license plates to the front and rear of your car. An officer may be willing to forgive a license plate that’s displayed on top of your dashboard, but technically this violates the law.
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Which US states do not require a front license plate?

Not all U.S. states require front license plates—none of Illinois’s immediate neighbors to the east do. Drivers visiting Illinois from one of these states are only required to follow the laws where their car is registered, meaning they do not need to display a front license plate while visiting Illinois.
Here are the states that do not require a front license plate.
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why Illinois requires a front license plate

Illinois law enforcement favors front and rear license plate displays because it aids in locating stolen vehicles and identifying drivers who violate traffic laws.
However, a bill is currently being considered in the State House that would remove the requirement for front license plates in Illinois. The proposed law,
House Bill 1896
, faces opposition from law enforcement; however, it could save the state $800,000 a year in license plate production costs if passed.
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Which states have the highest rate of car theft?

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Service lists Illinois as the eighth-worst state for car theft, with 21,332 vehicles stolen in 2020 alone.
California
,
Texas
, and
Florida
take first, second, and third place, respectively.
The good news is that no Illinois city ranks in the top ten metropolitan areas for car theft. According to the FBI, car theft rate in
Chicago
was 335 car thefts per 100,000 residents in 2019. That’s slightly higher than the 2021 national average of 268 car thefts per 100,000 residents, but well below the rate of 905 car thefts per 100,000 residents in Bakersfield, CA—the worst city for car theft in America.
Here are the car theft rates per 100,000 residents in 2019 for some of Illinois’ other major urban centers:
Pay close attention to which cities have lower rates—local car theft rates can play a determining factor in your car insurance rates! Based on the car theft rate alone,
Peoria car insurance costs
are likely to be much higher than those in a city with less car theft, like
Aurora

How to find cheap car insurance in Illinois

Combine Chicago’s high car theft rate with a traffic ticket for failing to properly display your front license, and you could be looking at very expensive
Chicago insurance costs
! Luckily, you can find the most affordable insurance rate no matter where you live in Illinois with help from
Jerry
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