Over the weekend, we answered a question that had Idaho drivers questioning whether they’re driving legally or not when they’re in downtown Boise: Can you turn left onto a one-way street on a red light?
Now we’re answering another confusing question that could one day cause you issues on the road: Does Idaho require a front license plate on motor vehicles?
The short answer is yes. Idaho is one of 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, that requires a front license plate on most motor vehicles.
But there are some exceptions.
Title 49 of Idaho Statutes outlines that the following vehicles are not required to have a front license plate: motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, utility type vehicles, motorbikes and semitrailers operated by a manufacturer, repossession agents and dealers.
Tractors also only require a single license plate, but the plate must be on the front of the tractor instead of the rear.
But there is also one further exception in the state code: “Vehicles displaying year of manufacture, old timer, classic car, street rod, or custom vehicle license plates shall be allowed to display one (1) plate attached to the rear of the vehicle.”
The description for each vehicle classification can be found below, and an application to apply for special license plates can be found on the Idaho Transportation Department’s website.
Year of manufacturer - Vehicles with the model year 1974 or 1968 and earlier may display an authentic Idaho license plate manufactured in the same year as the vehicle and for the same type of vehicle.
Old Timer - Vehicles manufactured before Jan. 1, 1943, without major modifications from factory specifications. This plate does not act as registration and shall only be used for exhibits, parades, tours, club activities and other similar events. The vehicle cannot be used for business or commercial purposes with only an Old Timer license plate.
Classic Vehicle - Vehicles over 30 years old that do not qualify as an Old Timer. This plate also does not act as registration and can only be used for exhibits, parades, tours and club activities. It also cannot be used for business or commercial purposes without customary registration.
Street Rod - Vehicles manufactured before Dec. 31, 1948, or are designed to resemble such a vehicle.
Custom Vehicle - Vehicles with a replica brand title over 30 years old but do not qualify for Old Timer plates.
Further distinction between Old Timer and Idaho Classic cars can be found in section 49-406A of the Idaho state code.
Why does Idaho require a front license plate?
Attempts have been made to remove the front license plate requirement from Idaho cars, such as in 2017, when the House Transportation and Defense committee narrowly passed a bill. The bill eventually died in a Senate committee.
Rep. Patrick McDonald, a former state trooper, said in 2017 that the front license plates must be required on vehicles because he “can’t tell you how many stolen cars I recovered because they only had one plate on them.”
Boise Police Department spokesperson Haley Williams reiterated that point to the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday, saying that it’s easier to identify vehicles for police officers in cases of crime with a front license plate.
Getting caught without a necessary front license plate on your car will result in an equipment infraction and a $67 fine. Residents new to Idaho must register and title their vehicle within 90 days of moving to the state.