Does Missouri Require Front License Plates?

Missouri requires front license plates for most passenger vehicles—and it’s especially important in cities with lots of car thefts.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Dec 11, 2022
Yes, Missouri is a “two-plate state.” The Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) requires most cars to display valid Missouri license plates on the front and back of the car. 
This might seem like an annoyance—especially if you’ve got a European-made or out-of-state car not designed to display that chunky plate on the front bumper. But there’s a good reason for that up-front plate: it helps law enforcement identify stolen vehicles and aids in traffic violation enforcement. 
Here to walk you through the legal requirements for front license plates in Missouri—along with some helpful car theft stats—is the trusted
car insurance
broker app
. We’ll take a look at state law, theft rates in major Missouri cities, and some tips to help you reduce your
Missouri car insurance costs

Does Missouri require front license plates?

Yes—Missouri requires front and rear license plates for most vehicles on the road
The law, laid out in
Section 301.130
of the state code, dates back to the 1940s. Under this law, the State of Missouri issues two license plates to every motor vehicle at the time of vehicle registration to be displayed clearly on the front and rear of the vehicle. You’ll need to make sure that both plates are fully visible, including at night. A clear protective cover is permitted, but all stickers and text (including the state nickname “SHOW-ME STATE”) should be legible. 
The same requirements apply to personalized license plates and special plates, such as those issued to disabled veterans or National Guard members. Motorists with such plates still need to display them clearly and legibly. 


In most cases, you should assume that you’re required to display a front license plate in Missouri. If you received two plates when you registered your vehicle, put them both on the car—the second plate isn’t a spare! 
But there are a few exceptions to the two-plate law. For instance, commercial vehicles over twelve thousand pounds typically don’t need a front license plate. Neither do: 
All such vehicles should still display a rear license plate, but they can forgo the front plate. If your World War II-era BMW is properly registered in Missouri, you won’t need to disrupt that gorgeous front grille with a clunky “Show-Me State” plate. 
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What is the penalty for driving without a front license plate in Missouri?

Driving without a front license plate is a primary violation under Missouri law, meaning that a police officer can pull you over simply for failure to display a front plate. 
Failure to properly display a front license plate carries a $30.50 fine. Additional costs of $52.50 bring the total cost of failure to display plates to $83
In some cases, law enforcement might be generous. Because Missouri is surrounded by states that don’t require front license plates, it’s not uncommon for police to give motorists a chance to correct the issue if they weren’t aware of the law. Just don’t count on that—if you’re reading this, you’ve got a chance to avoid the traffic stop in the first place! 

Which US states do not require a front license plate?

Not every state requires two license plates—in fact, many of Missouri’s closest neighbors only require a rear license plate. The 19 states listed below have no front license plate requirement. 
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why Missouri requires a front license plate

A front license plate isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing feature (even though Missouri law does stipulate that plates should be “aesthetically attractive”!). 
But front license plates play an important role in helping police identify stolen vehicles. If you’re unlucky enough to have your car stolen, having a front license plate doubles the chances of law enforcement being able to locate it—and with Missouri’s high rates of auto theft, that’s easily worth the aesthetic sacrifice. 

Which states have the highest rate of car theft?

According to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Service, Missouri is the fourth-worst state for car theft. With 393.2 thefts per 100,000, Missouri ranks just behind
New Mexico
, and
as one of the most theft-prone states. 
Several of Missouri’s major cities also rank high among metropolitan areas with the worst auto theft rates. While Bakersfield, California had the highest car theft rate in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the St. Joseph metropolitan area came in at #9, with a rate of 564.64 thefts per 100,000—well above the state average! 
Other Missouri cities with a high auto theft rate include: 
  • Kansas City: 544.68
  • Springfield: 450.74
  • St. Louis: 443.42 
Not only do those high auto theft rates underscore the importance of displaying a front license plate, but they could also affect your auto insurance rates! It’s no coincidence that
Kansas City insurance costs
are among the highest in the state, while the state capital of
Jefferson City
—with a much lower rate of auto theft—enjoys much lower rates. 

How to find cheap car insurance in Missouri

Whether you’re dealing with sky-high
St. Joseph insurance costs
thanks to high theft rates or just trying to knock a few dollars off your premium in St. Louis, you can find cheap Missouri auto insurance with help from
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