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Are License Plate Frames Legal in Tennessee?

  • Cars Explained
  • Renee Martin
  • 5 minutes

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Getting pulled up for displaying your Tennessee license plate in the wrong way is just not worth the trouble. Does the same law extend to license plate frames?

License plates – you’d think they’re going to be the least problematic part of a car, right? People shell out tons of money trying to get unique numbers and designer plates – only to go overboard and make a mess of things. It doesn’t help that different states have different rules regarding license plate frames, personalization, and more.

So what’s the deal with license plates if you’re in Tennessee? Here’s everything you needed to know about driving with the right plates in the Volunteer State.

Everything about tennessee license plates

How can I get a Tennessee license plate?

You can obtain a license plate in the Volunteer State once you register and title your vehicle. To do that, you need:

  • A valid identity proof
  • Proof of residence
  • Name and address of the lienholder
  • If there is no lienholder, your out-of-state title

You can choose a license plate that you like from the list of available plates on the website.

Also read: How to renew your Tennessee driver’s license

What rules should you follow for Tennessee license plates?

It’s best to follow best practices when driving with license plates in TN.

  • When affixing a license plate to your car, you should ensure that it is easily visible to anyone – including drivers and pedestrians.
  • Tennessee is a one-plate state and requires it to be fixed at the rear of the car.
  • You can have a plate frame as long as it does not cover the numbers, lettering, and decal.
  • However, tractors and large trucks have to fix the license plates at the front of the vehicle.
  • The plate should not swing freely and must be fixed horizontally.
  • The plate should have a clearance of at least 12 inches from its bottom to the ground.

What color are the TN license plates?

Before 2022, the Tennessee license plates had black serial numbers and lettering embossed on a white reflective plate. The county name was embossed on the bottom while ‘TENNESSEE’ was screened on the top.

However, after January 2022, the plates consist of white lettering on a blue reflective plate. The flag emblem appears in between the serials as a separator. ‘TENNESEE’ is screened in white lettering on top and the county name at the bottom. The state’s nickname – ‘THE VOLUNTEER STATE’ – is mentioned in the upper left corner.

Also read: How long does it take to get a license plate? 

tennessee license plate
     Image Credit: Mhuy222, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Can you put your license plate on the front of your car in Tennessee?

No, Tennessee is a one-plate state, which means you only need to display it at the rear of your car. The state is one of the ‘Rugged Nineteen’ states where it is not mandatory to have a front plate. Other states in this list include Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and more.

Are license plate frames illegal in Tennessee?

License plate frames are not illegal in Tennessee. However, you must ensure that no part of the frame covers or obstructs the serials and numbers on the plate. If you violate this law, it amounts to a misdemeanor which can cost you $10 for the first offense and $20 or more for subsequent ones.

Can you have license plate covers in Tennessee?

It is illegal to have license plate covers in the state Рregardless of whether they are clear, tinted, or translucent. 

Is it illegal to customize your license plate in Tennessee?

No, it is perfectly legal to personalize and customize your license plate with symbols or messages. You can choose from over 100 different types of categories in interests/professions like:

  • Military
  • Collegiate
  • Clubs/Organizations
  • Fraternity/Sorority
  • Hospitals
  • Sports
  • Emergency/safety

You can get personalized plates by paying a $35 application fee online and collecting the plates from your local county clerk’s office.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Tennessee a two-plate state?

No, Tennessee is a one-plate state. You only need to display the license plate at the rear of the vehicle. Tennessee is one of 19 states that do not require a mandatory front plate.

Can you have tinted license plate covers in TN?

No, you cannot have tinted license plate covers in TN. You can, however, have plate frames as long as it doesn’t obstruct the letters/serial numbers.

Can you paint your license plate in TN?

No, it is illegal to paint anything on your TN license plate apart from the design you have been given.

Also read: Complete guides to getting your license and plates in different US States

Tennessee license plates

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