Each U.S. state requires drivers to have at least one license plate displayed on their vehicle. But what about the license plate size? What’s the required license plate size?
In the United States, vehicle license plates must be 12 inches by 6 inches in size. Depending on the jurisdiction, this size may vary slightly. License plate sizes are generally the same all around the world. This allows license plate makers all around the world to benefit from economies of scale.
So, license plates in all 50 states of the United States are the same size. All of these plates are built using aluminum, which is a durable and strong metal. The overall design of all license plates in the United States is the same. You may change the fonts, logo design, and other vanity options, though.
Read on to know more about the size of license plates required in the United States and how this size got to be the standard.
Required License Plate Size
In the U.S., a license plate must be 12 inches by 6 inches in size. Depending on the jurisdiction, this dimension may differ slightly. It is the same size around the world because license plate makers benefit from economies of scale.
This is the standard size used in all 50 states in the United States. Also, all vehicle license plates are made of aluminum, which is corrosion-resistant. The overall design of these plates is generally similar as well. But you may change the font and logo design, including other vanity choices.
The license plate market will grow if the same overall license plate measurements are followed around the world. And with more companies producing license plates, vehicle owners in other parts of the world will have less time to wait for new license plates, which are frequently delivered late.
License Plate Sizes: Standardization
Vehicle owners were still responsible for producing their own license plates until 1905. Their license numbers were also stenciled on the front and back of their vehicles.
Today, vehicle owners are expected to show standard license plates on their vehicles, which is a far cry from the past. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles keeps track of this requirement.
Owners of vehicles must register their vehicles, and their current license plates serve as proof of registration. Upon submission of relevant paperwork and proofs, the government agency in charge of issuing license plates will issue them their plates.
The license plate, which is 12 x 6 inches, can then be attached to your vehicle with two screws into two typical screw holes.
License plates for smaller vehicles, such as motorbikes and golf carts, are smaller. The standard size for such vehicles in the United States is 7 inches by 4 inches.
In terms of design, all license plates in the U.S. share the same general appearance. The government, on the other hand, allows for changes to fonts, logo design, and vanity options.
When Did the Size of the License Plate Become Standard?
In the 1950s, the global automotive industry agreed to create a standard size for vehicle license plates with the help of international standard groups and governments.
Before, the EU’s standard front license plate size was 52 x 11.1 cm (20.5 x 4.37 in). The back plate’s measurements might be the same as the front plate’s, which are 53.3 x 15.2 cm (21 x 6 in).
Officials issued license plates as a result of an increase in automobile registration year after year around the world. The emerging economies, particularly the BRIC countries, are seeing significant vehicle growth. This is fueled by these countries’ active and ongoing industrialization, including global trade exchanges.
China has maintained its leadership position as the world’s largest automotive market over the last few years. It’s the same in India, which has a rapidly growing market. This spurred a slew of new OEMs to enter the market and compete for their slice of the pie.
The demand for new license plates was also driven by car-sharing services. People are renting cars for shorter periods of time. This situation pushed more people to drive cars and experiment with various vehicle models. These are the elements that have caused a boom in demand for automobile license plates, necessitating the need to standardize their dimensions.
What’s the Legal License Plate Size in the U.S.?
The Automobile Manufacturers Association and the 50 states of the United States and their Canadian counterparts decided in 1956 to standardize the size of all passenger vehicle license plates. They agreed that the plates should be 6 x 12 inches (150 x 300 mm) in size.
The mounting holes are 7 in or 180 mm apart. Slight changes were permitted depending on the requirements of each jurisdiction.
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon were the only two places in North America that did not adhere to the rules. While the license plates of the Northwest Territories are designed like a polar bear, they are nonetheless rectangular in shape.
Smaller plates were necessary for motorcycles. In some jurisdictions, these smaller plates were also required for trailer types, specific construction equipment, and mopeds. European-sized plates are permitted in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, for a price.
Although the size of motorcycle license plates is not specified, most motorcycles have license plates that are 7 x 4 in (180 x 100 mm). Except for Minnesota, practically every state has been like this since the 1980s. MN continues to use plates that measure 7 and 3/16 in x 4 and 3/16 in (183 x 106 mm).
License Plates and Their Evolution
The U.S. government managed vehicle registration through registration bureaus before there were license plates. Because of the growing number of motorized vehicles on the roads, some states recognized the need for some type of regulation as early as 1892.
With people, horses, and now automobiles, the roads were rapidly deteriorating. Money and regulations were required to fix the situation. The problem of public safety was also becoming more of a concern.
Law enforcement agencies required a tool or device that would allow them to track and record the activities of vehicle owners. As a result, the license plate was created. In 1903, it became clear that horse-drawn carriages were being phased out in favor of motorized vehicles.
As a result, a system for recording and taxing these cars and their drivers was also required. Massachusetts was one of the 1st states to provide registration plates and driver’s licenses for motor vehicles.
Drivers were concerned that their front-mounted license plates would obstruct airflow to their radiators. Some states responded by issuing perforated license plates. However, in 1918, they stopped doing so.
Sheet iron was used for the original license plates. However, they had replaced it with tin sheets, which they continued to use until 1920. Arizona began producing its tags out of sheet copper between 1932 and 1934.
During the early days of license plates, porcelain plates became popular. In 1942, Delaware became the last state to use porcelain license plates. Interestingly, license plates were created using soybean-based fiberboard during World War II. Metals were only to be used for the war effort at the time.
Around the year 1920, numerous states began employing prison inmates to process registration plates. It provided useful labor for the convicts while also lowering the cost of producing license plates.
The government then mandated that automobile manufacturers installed lights to illuminate license plates at night in 1923. This requirement paved the way for the next step in the evolution of license plates. Arizona was the 1st state to distribute license plates with reflectors, which happened in 1941.
In Georgia, a new evolution of the license plate began. In 1941, this state was the first to use decals, which were used to update the vehicle’s yearly registration instead of replacing the license plate every year.
Then came 1957, when license plate sizes were standardized. After that, every state in the Union adopted a common license plate size of 12 x 6 inches or 30.48 x 15.24 centimeters.
Many states displayed police troop codes, county designations, and congressional districts on their license plates from the early days of vehicle registration plates until roughly 1965. However, by 1991, only ten states had continued to do so. This was made possible by the advancement of computer technology, as fewer codes were necessary to instantly identify vehicles.
Surprisingly, several terminologies pertaining to license plates may be found in the early history of automobiles, particularly in the days of horses and carriages. Horseless Carriage license plates, for example, are available in several states for vintage vehicles. Vehicles produced after 1922 that are 25 years and older are also eligible for historical plates.
There are trucks in Alabama with a license that allows them to operate within a 15-mile radius. This is an out-of-date rule based on how far a mule can travel in a single day. Therefore, these trucks’ license plates are now known as mule tags.
Motorcycles used to have small plates back when they first started registering. Officials also requested that bikers have brass watch fobs with their registration information on them.
License Plates in the United States: Background Information
It’s a mistake to believe that the metal plates mounted on motorized vehicles are license plates. You should obtain your driver’s license before operating a motor vehicle. You also need to register your vehicle so that it can be driven on public roads.
In other words, these plates should be referred to as registration plates rather than license plates. Through the plate, the authorities learn about the vehicle registration and the location where the driver registered.
In the United States and Canada, various government bodies regulate and manage the rules that govern motor vehicles. These divisions have their own color schemes, numbering, and plate issue processes.
The types of vehicles can be immediately identified by law enforcers. The alpha and numeric character combinations, the embossed words/captions, and the color combinations of the metal plates are used to register them.
License Plates Can Provide Police Officers with Useful Information
For those who know how to read license plates, there are a few things that stand out. For example, police officers can glance at a vehicle’s license plate and obtain the following information:
- Registration validity
- Vehicle’s weight and use
- Vehicle’s type of class
- Vehicle owner’s information
On passenger cars, a license plate may include information such as the owner’s occupation, special codes for specific groups, special codes for government or state officials, the vehicle owner’s country of residence, and more.
In the United States, commercial vehicles, such as trucks and buses, are treated differently. They frequently feature registration plates that have a different color than the rest. Their codes differ from those used in passenger vehicles. Usually, commercial vehicle registration plates are changed more frequently than passenger vehicle plates.
Thirty-one of the fifty-one states in the United States require each vehicle to have two license plates. One plate should be shown in the front and the other at the back of the vehicle. The remaining states just require one plate to be mounted on the back of the vehicle.
Conclusion – Required Size of License Plates
Vehicle license plates in the United States must be 12 x 6 inches in size. Depending on the jurisdiction, this size may vary slightly. License plates are generally the same size throughout the world. This permits license plate manufacturers all over the world to take advantage of economies of scale.
A police officer can gather the following information from your license plate:
- Registration validity
- Vehicle’s weight and use
- Vehicle’s type of class
- Vehicle owner’s information
Therefore, there’s a standard size for license plates in the United States, but don’t worry; you can still customize it in terms of logo design, fonts, and other options, giving it a unique touch.