Question Of The Day: Is It Illegal To Paint A License Plate?

Question: Is it illegal to paint a license plate?

Some people can’t get enough of customizing their rides. Accessories, decals, stripes. You can work hard to get that rad, midnight black, matte finish only to have to look at a bright white license plate. Is it illegal to paint my license plate?

Short answer: Yes. Yes, it is.

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Eli Christman / Flickr.com

Your license plate is the property of the state where your car is registered. It is given to you to provide identification for the vehicle. States started issuing vehicle licenses over a hundred years ago. Originally, owners were given a number and then required to make their own plate. Massachusetts claims to have issued the first license plate in 1903.

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Faungg’s / Flickr.com

The Law

Altering a license plate is illegal but penalties vary by state. In Arizona, you could be fined a minimum of $300. In Florida, it is considered a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation.

License plates serve a serious purpose. It is vital for police officers to be able to identify and read, quickly and easily, license plates. They are also used for things like red light camera enforcement and pay-by-toll systems across the country. In recent years, camera-defeating products like sprays and covers have hit the market designed to make the license plate impossible for a camera to read it. Many states specifically prohibit these items.

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Eli Christman / Flickr.com

So if you can’t paint your plate to match your cool custom design for your car. How can you stay on the right side of the law but have your tag match your car? You have got options.

Vanity and specialty plates are your chance to get creative. Within limits and at an extra cost, you can choose your custom vanity plate. The limits? Don’t be offensive or racist. The price? It varies across the states. In California, the initial custom plate will cost you an extra $98. In Arizona, it is just $25.

Specialty plates are non-standard license plates offered by each state. These also cost more. Want to represent your college or university? There is probably a plate designed by the alumni association. Love the Miami Heat or the New York Yankees? There’s a plate for you. Texas has nearly 400 options to choose from, though it has been accused of intentionally making its standard plate dull to spur sales of more expensive specialty plates.

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Suko’s License Plates / Flickr.com

So, odds are, if you’re willing to pay for it and dig through your state’s specialty plates, there’s probably something there that will make your wheels look better.

We’re scouring the Internet to uncover interesting questions that people have posted looking for advice from the unwashed masses. We will contact experts to give you well-researched, professional advice. You can also submit questions to autos_qotd@yahoo.com.

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