Does Wisconsin Require Front License Plates?

Wisconsin requires front license plates for most passenger vehicles—and it’s especially important in cities with lots of car thefts.
Written by Mariza Morin
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
YWisconsin is one of 31 “two-plate states.” The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) requires all drivers to secure their valid
Wisconsin license plates
on the front and back of the vehicle. 
While there’s much debate over the need for a front license plate on vehicles, there’s no doubt that they serve as an effective tool to assist police with locating stolen vehicles and enforcing traffic laws. 
Let's walk through all the legalities for front license plates in Wisconsin.

Does Wisconsin require front license plates?

Yes,
Wisconsin
law requires a front and rear license plate for most vehicles. 
Section 341.15
of the Wisconsin State Legislature states that if two license plates are issued to you through WisDOT, then both must be securely attached to the vehicle—one on the front and one on the rear. Both plates must be in legible condition so they can clearly be seen and read. It's illegal to cover any readable part on a Wisconsin license plate. 
Additionally, you’ll receive validation stickers for display on the rear plate if you’re sent two license plates. You’ll also have to place registration month and year stickers on the rear license plate right side up without covering any information.

Exemptions

If WisDOT only sends you one license plate, here’s how the plate should be attached:
  • Truck tractors, road tractors, or motor trucks issued under
    Section 341.405 (2)
    must display their plate on the front of the vehicle
  • Any other vehicle that receives just one license plate must attach it to the rear of the vehicle unless it was issued under
    Section 341.26 (2m)

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

Under Wisconsin law, driving without a front license plate could result in a fine of up to $200. 
But considering Wisconsin is right next to Michigan—a one-plate state—law enforcement might take it easy on you if you get caught driving without a front license plate on your vehicle.
But that doesn’t give you a free pass to drive around without one! Comply with front license plate laws in Wisconsin to prevent an otherwise avoidable traffic stop altogether.

Which US states do not require a front license plate?

While 31 US states require a front license plate, not all states enforce this rule. Here are the 19 states that don’t legally require a front license plate. 
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why Wisconsin requires a front license plate

Aesthetics aside, there are many reasons why drivers despise front license plates, including damages these plates can cause to the front of the vehicle.  
But front license plates do play a major part when aiding police officers with tracking down stolen vehicles.
In the unfortunate event that your vehicle gets stolen, you’ll likely double the chances of finding your vehicle if you have a front license plate. So attaching a front license plate to your vehicle might not be such a bad idea when you take this into consideration.

Which states have the highest rate of car theft?

According to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), there were 15,950 motor vehicle theft offenses reported in Wisconsin for 2021.
Wisconsin isn’t among the worst states for car theft though—that would be
Colorado
,
New Mexico
, and
California
While Wisconsin doesn’t see as many auto thefts as the three states listed above, Milwaukee is actually the 8th worst city for car thefts in the nation based on the latest study from the
National Insurance Crime Bureau
. The largest city in Wisconsin saw a 72% jump in car thefts from 2020 to 2021—going from 345.19 to 597.82 for every 100,000 residents.
Not only does this new revelation underscore why having a front license plate on your vehicle is beyond necessary, but it can actually impact your car insurance rates, too! And it should come as no surprise that
Milwaukee insurance costs
are the highest in America’s Dairyland. 
“I would 11/10 recommend
Jerry
. I was originally quoted $700+ for insurance for my new car, but by using Jerry I got my payments down to $320 a month. They also have a great support team ready to answer any questions!” —Tobias F.
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