A valid license plate is one of the most important parts of a vehicle, ensuring you’re able to drive your car legally. Every state has different requirements concerning vehicle license plates. Failing to follow these requirements can have repercussions. 

In New York, there are several license plate laws that are vital to keep in mind.

New York License Plate Laws

Getting pulled over is never fun, especially when a stop results in a ticket and fines. Understanding these key New York license plate laws can help you avoid any unnecessary and unpleasant legal consequences. 

Two License Plates

Some states, including New York, require drivers to have more than one license plate on their vehicles. New York follows the “two-plate law,” which means that drivers must ensure they have a license plate secured at the rear of their vehicle and also one in the front. This law applies to cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, and trucks

License plates must be secured in their designated locations on the vehicle. Drivers cannot drive with license plates displayed on the dashboard or rear window, even if the license plates are valid. 


Visibility is crucial for license plates. Both the front and back license plates must be perfectly visible at all times. This means that:

  • License plates must be placed properly, right side up
  • Plates cannot be covered by any plastic or glass
  • Plates cannot be coated with any material that obscures or conceals plate information
  • Plates must be cleaned if covered by snow, ice, or mud

Additionally, your vehicle should feature lights around the license plate, allowing it to be more easily visible at night. 

License Plate Frames

Decorative license plate frames are allowed. However, the frames should be thin enough that they do not cover any significant part of the license plate. All information on the plate should still be perfectly visible, even with the frame. 


You cannot transfer your license plates to anyone else. If you sell or give away your vehicle, you can only transfer ownership of the car.

You can, however, transfer your plates to another vehicle you own at your local DMV. 


If either license plate is lost, stolen, or damaged, you have ten days to replace it with a new one. To replace your plate, you will need to visit your local DMV and pay the required fees. 

You must report lost or stolen plates to law enforcement in the event your plates are later used in connection with any criminal acts. 

How To Obtain Your New York License Plate

To get New York license plates, you need to register your vehicle with the DMV. To do so, you must first obtain proper auto insurance that meets the minimum requirements for New York. Then, you’ll submit your application, documentation, and payment to the DMV. You should receive your license plates and registration documents within one to two weeks. 

After receiving your plates, you will need to get your vehicle inspected. Inspections are repeated yearly. 

The Importance of License Plates

The process of obtaining license plates can be daunting, but it’s essential for many reasons. For example, clear vehicle identification is especially important during hit-and-run car accidents

Many hit-and-run drivers are eventually caught because their plate information is captured on security or traffic cam footage. Additionally, when you’re involved in a collision and you’re unable to get the other party’s information, you can take photos of the license plate. If you experience any type of car accident in New York, don’t wait to seek legal assistance. A car accident attorney can investigate the collision, often with the help of plate information, and help you reach the best possible case result.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City car accident lawyers at Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007