A co-worker of mine and I were discussing vanity license plates the other day and what we would have on our vanity plates if we could(discretion forbids me to elaborate any further) when out of nowhere the conversation turned to front and back license plates and whether it was necessary to have both in the Commonwealth.

My co-worker and I couldn't agree on the specifics. We both were fairly certain that vehicles were required to have both front and rear plates, but is only having a rear license plate actually ILLEGAL?

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The upshot was that I decided to do a little research to find out the answer. Then I wondered how many of my fellow Berkshire County residents were unsure regarding the issue. I figured I would do a post so that everybody would be clear.

Now if we were residents of some other state like Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Arizona, or South Carolina then guess what? We would NOT need a front license plate on our vehicle.

Massachusetts, however, DOES require a front license plate on your vehicle. As a matter of fact, 28 other states, including Washington D.C., require you to have a front-mounted license plate on your vehicle in addition to the rear license plate.

Interestingly, all New England states have the two-plate requirement. And, here's the biggie: You could end up paying a substantial fine if you do not have a front license plate clearly displayed on your vehicle. Even if you DO have a front license plate but it is covered or otherwise not legible, you could pay a fine.

There are some exceptions. If you operate a motorcycle, then you only need one rear plate. And there are certain instances where vehicles owned by a car dealership may be driven with only the rear plate affixed.

Now, if you're wondering to yourself, "Just why does Massachusetts require me to have a front and rear license plate on my vehicle???" Well, the answer is fairly simple really. It's mainly for our benefit.

If your vehicle is ever, God forbid, stolen, having a front license plate makes it easier for law enforcement to locate the vehicle. So that's a good thing! Alas, police also use the front license plate to distribute traffic violations so watch it!

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