Ask a Trooper: Why does Minn. require two license plates?

Published 9:34 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.

Question: We live in Minnesota but travel south for several winter months. Many other states only have a rear license plate. Why does Minnesota have two? Thanks!

Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson

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Answer: Minnesota state law requires two license plates on your vehicle with some exceptions.

Some vehicles are allowed to display only one license plate: motorcycles; a dealer’s vehicle or vehicle in-transit; a collector’s vehicle with a pioneer, classic car, collector or street rod license; a vehicle that is of model year 1972 or earlier (not registered as a collector vehicle) and is used for general transportation purpose.

License plates cannot be displayed in the front windshield or the rear window; they must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle.

All plates must be securely fastened to prevent them from swinging, displayed horizontally with the identifying numbers and letters facing outward from the vehicle and mounted in the upright position.

The person driving the motor vehicle shall keep the plate legible, unobstructed and free from grease, dust or other blurring material (dirt, mud, snow, etc.) so that the lettering is plainly visible at all times.

It is unlawful to cover any assigned letters and numbers or the name of the state of origin of a license plate with any material whatever, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate’s visibility or reflectivity. This also includes obstructing license plate brackets that block the state of issuance and tabs.

License plates issued to vehicles must display the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner of each plate.

Why do we need to have two license plates? It is the law in Minnesota, and from a law enforcement perspective it is safer to have two plates as it helps law enforcement a great deal in properly identifying vehicles for many different reasons. Properly identifying vehicles will help in locating possible impaired drivers, suspects in many different criminal activity events, hit-and-run and gas drive-off vehicles, to name a few.

If you happen to lose or damage any of your license plates, order duplicates through the Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services. When you obtain your new plate(s), secure them to front and/or rear of the vehicle, typically to the bumper, as soon as possible. 

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at