AUSTIN (KXAN) — As residents continue to relocate to Austin in droves, more people means more cars out on Texas roadways. Occasionally, that means you might spot a vehicle without a front and back license plate.
But is that legal? According to the Texas Transportation Code, the answer is no — but an error from a decade ago has continued to create confusion surrounding the rule up to the present day.
Under the Texas Administrative Code, most vehicles must display two license plates, with one on the front and a second on the rear of the vehicle. License plates need to be “clearly visible, readable, and legible,” as well as “securely fastened” on both ends of the car. The same applies to temporary plates.
But back in January 2012, a revision to the Texas Transportation Code accidentally removed a provision that mandated penalties for vehicles without both plates, according to the Fort Worth-based Barnett, Howard & Williams Law Firm. That was amended in September 2013, but led to increased confusion surrounding the two-plate rule, per BHW.
The only vehicles exempt from both license plates include road tractors, motorcycles, trailers, semitrailers, antique vehicles and former military vehicles, per the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and Austin-based Cobb & Counsel. Those specific vehicles are required to have a rear license plate only.
Under Texas law, vehicles that aren’t exempt and are found operating without a front license plate are subject to a $200 fine. However, some Texas lawmakers have tried to change that policy in recent years.
Back in 2021, State. Rep. Will Metcalf proposed House Bill 1199, a measure that, if passed, would have only required a rear license plate be issued for “a passenger car or light truck.” That bill failed to pass during the 2021 Texas legislative session.
As of October 2022, 19 states had removed a front license plate requirement from their state transportation codes. All of the states bordering Texas have done away with the front plate, per Cobb & Counsel.
The challenge that continues today is certain vehicle models, including Teslas, don’t come with a front license plate holder. However, as of now, Texas law still requires both a front and rear plate.