Does New Mexico Require Front License Plates?

Since 1961, only rear license plates are required in the state of New Mexico.
Written by Jacqulyn Graber
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Since 1961,
New Mexico
has only required rear license plates. Front plates are not mandated by law. 
If you’ve got a European car, or your vehicle’s front grille is an outstanding feature, a front license plate may seem like an eyesore. Fortunately for those living in New Mexico, it’s entirely up to you whether you’d like to opt to add a plate above your front bumper.

Does New Mexico require a front license plate?

No. New Mexico’s license plate rules only require drivers to outfit their vehicles with a rear license plate.
New Mexico is one of 19 states that does not require a front license plate, leaving room for plenty of custom plates bearing the names of automotive dealers, the brands of carmakers, the logos of sports teams and universities, and all manner of slogans. Or, you can opt not to affix anything at all to your front bumper.
Keep in mind: Legislators have proposed making front license plates a legal requirement, but as of right now, this has not been made into law. 

Penalties for not abiding by New Mexico’s license plate laws

Even though New Mexico doesn’t require front license plates, rear license plates are still a must—and there are penalties for violating this law.
License plates must be applied for during the initial
car registration process
. Drivers must submit a license plate application in person within 30 days of purchasing a new or used car.
Driving without a license plate could result in a ticket and serious fines. Plus, you’ll need to register for a license plate anyway before getting your car back out onto the road.
Frames and plate covers are perfectly legal—however, you cannot obstruct or impair a license plate’s clear display and legibility. Tinted covers are not allowed—only those made of clear plastic or glass.
If your license plate is illegible, you will be fined $25 and have to pay court fees of $65.

What states don’t require a front license plate?

New Mexico isn’t the only state that doesn’t require a front license plate. Here’s the complete list:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why doesn’t New Mexico require a front license plate?

Although legislation to require a front license plate has been proposed, it hasn’t been passed into law just yet in New Mexico. 
While the reasoning for this could be complex, it is likely because a front license plate is an expense that the state simply cannot justify. Rear license plates already provide vehicle owners and law enforcement officials enough ability to identify a vehicle’s owner. 
In general, many drivers avoid using a front license plate because they don’t like the appearance of one.
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