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Open Diff – What does it matter how many license plates you have on your car?

Published in blog.hemmings.com

My native land, Ohio, has eliminated the requirement to have a front license plate as well as a rear plate. Good for you, Buckeyes, I guess. Now tell me why?

The push for single license plates seems to take up an inordinate amount of resources. A quick review of SEMA alerts shows that at least 10 states in addition to Ohio have considered some sort of legislation to address the issue this year, and it seems to be a perennial topic.

SEMA’s notices offer one defense of the single license plate, noting that it “protect(s) the aesthetic contours of cars and relieve vehicle owners of the burden of having to create mounting holes on bumpers.” Indeed, I recall working with a fella in Ohio who bought a car from a Michigan dealership and then complained to everybody in earshot of him for the next few days about having to find some way to mount an Ohio license plate to the bumper of his new car, which didn’t have any license plate mounting provisions.

But even then, those of us who had to hear his lamentations dismissed it as a minor inconvenience. Whether a vehicle has one license plate or two doesn’t affect the utility or enjoyability of the vehicle. It’s two holes, which most vehicles already have. And if they don’t, I find it hard to believe that anybody would be so put out by drilling the two holes (or obtaining OE equipment with provisions for mounting a license plate) that they’d feel it worth their time to change state law.

That said, maybe I’m missing something here, maybe some argument or rationale that single-plate proponents leave unsaid or that I have yet to hear. So give us the pros and cons of single license plates, and try to help me understand why so many people demand them.