Does Oregon Require Front License Plates?

Oregon state law requires most passenger vehicles to display two license plates—one at the front and one at the rear—to help crack down on car theft.
Written by Natalie Todoroff
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Oregon
is what’s known as a “two-plate state,” meaning you must have ​​
Oregon license plates
on the front and rear of your vehicle. 
Unless you’re someone with a particularly witty and well-conceived custom license plate, it’s safe to say that you don’t pay much mind to those small slabs of metal on your vehicle. While, sure, they can be a bit of an eyesore, many states (Oregon among them) require drivers to display license plates at both the front and back of the car to help law enforcement identify stolen vehicles. 
Jerry
is here with this guide to everything you need to know about Oregon’s license plate laws. We also have some important car theft statistics Oregon drivers should be aware of
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Does Oregon require front license plates?

Yes—most vehicles in Oregon are required to display front and rear license plates. 
According to
Section 803.540
of Oregon’s state laws, all vehicles must display two license plates. We’ll get into which vehicles have exemptions a little later on, but they are few and far between. The default requirement in most cases is two plates, which must be fully visible during the day and at night. You’re welcome to frame your license plate or add a clear protective cover, but you cannot cover up the numbers, tags, and stickers. 
The same rules apply to special plates and personalized plates. And, if you’re keen to design a new license plate graphic and submit it to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, the color of the sky is legally required to be blue, per
Section 803.538

Exemptions

However, some Oregon vehicles are only required to display one license plate. They are: 
  • Mopeds
  • Motorcycles
  • Trailers 
  • Campers
  • Antique vehicles, which are older than half the number of years between the current year and 1900. For 2022, this means cars that are 61 years or older. 
  • Special interest vehicles. Must meet one of the four criteria: at least 25 years old, sanctioned by an established organization as a vehicle of special interest, was manufactured before 1949 or resembles a car manufactured before that date, or is a high-mobility multipurpose vehicle originally for military use. 
For the latter two, you must first apply for
Antique/Special Vehicle Certification
and receive official documents from the DMV before removing your front license plate.  

What is the penalty for driving without a front license plate in Oregon?

If you are caught driving without a front license plate in Oregon, it is considered a Class D traffic violation. This is the most minor of the Beaver State’s traffic violations and carries a maximum $250 fine, minimum $60 fine, and presumptive $110 fine.
Every state that Oregon touches also requires drivers to have front license plates, so if you get pulled over for it, pleading ignorance won’t necessarily let you get off scot-free!  
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Which states do not require a front license plate?

Front and rear license plates are mandated by law along the west coast, but there are 19 states where you can drive with just a license plate on the back end of your car:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why Oregon requires a front license plate

There’s a lot of hullabaloo surrounding front license plates, so why have lawmakers gone to such lengths to make them a requirement?
The answer? To help the police identify stolen vehicles. Vehicles with front license plates double the chances of law enforcement being able to track down your car. Which, in a theft-heavy state like Oregon, is especially important.
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Which states have the highest rate of car theft?

Oregon isn’t just known for its evergreen views and killer Pinot Noirs—it’s also a hotbed for car theft. According to data from the National Insurance Claim Bureau, Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for vehicle theft, with an astounding 471.16 vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents. It closely tails
New Mexico
,
California
, Washington D.C., and
Colorado
Of all the cities in the Beaver State,
Portland
and
Salem
are the worst for car theft. The National Insurance Claim Bureau reports that Portland’s car theft rate is among the top five nationally—and even knocked San Francisco—with 680 vehicle thefts for 100,000 residents. And Salem isn’t much better, with 480 thefts for every 100,000 residents, per the FBI Uniform Crime Report. 
These high auto theft rates not only emphasize how important having a front license plate is, but they actually affect your insurance premiums! Because of the sky-high theft rate, you can expect to pay more for your car insurance in Portland and Salem. 
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