License Plate Frame Buyer's Guide
- License plate frames primarily serve as mounts for license plates. License plate frames also protect license plates from damage and dirt while you’re on the road. More importantly, license plate frames add a personal touch to your vehicle.
- There are three main types of license plate frames: slimline, semi-wide bottom, and wide bottom.
- The specifics of license plate frame regulations differ from state to state. However, the general rule is that if the frame affects the readability of the information that’s on the license plate itself, it can be considered illegal in most states.
- Even if you haven’t encountered an accident on the road, your old license plate frame might already be worn, faded, rusted, cracked, or chipped. If this is the case, you should have your license plate frame replaced to avoid problems.
- Before buying a replacement license plate frame, consider the size, material, durability, quantity, mounting type, and state law compliance of the part you’re planning on purchasing.
- The cost of aftermarket license plate frame replacements ranges from $20 to around $50. This range depends on a lot of factors such as the brand, location, series, material, color, finish, quantity, and fit of the replacement part.
- If you’re looking for a functional but fun aftermarket license plate frame, you can rely on CarParts.com for a durable yet cost-effective replacement.
A license plate or a registration serves as proof of vehicle registration. A state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or any equivalent territorial agency can issue vehicles with this plate. The plate contains the vehicle’s registration number, vehicle class, and information on where a vehicle is registered. A vehicle’s license plate also serves as an important tool that helps people and local law enforcement identify vehicles involved in crimes and other traffic-related incidents.
Your license plate is an important part of your vehicle. As such, you’ll need a durable, effective, and legal mounting tool. A license plate frame secures the license plate onto the vehicle. Find out more about this part with this short but informative guide.
What Is a License Plate Frame and Why Is It Important?
License plate frames primarily serve as mounts for license plates. They’re typically fastened on either the front or rear of the vehicle using screws. Some license plate frames come with all the necessary hardware and can even include screw caps that help prevent license plate theft.
License plate frames also protect license plates from damage and dirt while you’re on the road. In addition, they add an additional layer of protection for the plates, especially during minor accidents.
More importantly, license plate frames add a personal touch to your vehicle. License plate frames come in a wide variety of materials, colors, and designs. This makes it easier for you to match your frame to your vehicle’s aesthetic so you can customize your vehicle’s look. Popular designs include college alumni printed-frames and minimalist frames.
Types of License Plate Frames
There are three main types of license plate frames: slimline, semi-wide bottom, and wide bottom. Below are some of the specifics for each type:
Slimline-type license plate frames have a very thin border or trim. This design allows your license plate and your registration tags to be visible to authorities as well as private individuals who might need access to them. This type of license plate frame is legal in all 50 states.
Meanwhile, semi-wide bottom license plate frames have an eight inch-wide bottom and open corners. This design allows you to display your registration tags. This type of frame is DMV-compliant in most states. Be sure to check with your local DMV before you purchase this type of license plate frame.
Lastly, wide bottom license plate frames have a wide bottom that runs approximately 12 inches across the base of the plate. This design covers the lower registration tags and license plate messages. This type of license plate frame is illegal in some states, so it’s also important to ask your local DMV about this frame type if you plan on getting it.
Other frames are made to reflect the personality, interests, and hobbies of the vehicle owner. Custom license plate frames may be engraved or printed with text or logos of famous sports teams, alumni associations, etc. Some vehicle owners opt for bedazzled frames or ones encrusted with crystals.
Are License Plate Frames Illegal?
The specifics of license plate frame regulations differ from state to state. However, the general rule is that if the frame affects the readability of the information that’s on the license plate itself, it can be considered illegal in most states. In particular, if the registration number and state of origin are obscured, having that particular frame might be considered a violation. As such, it is important to research or inquire at your state’s DMV office about license plate frame laws and restrictions.
Benefits of Replacing License Plate Frame
License plate frames can get damaged after a front-end or rear-end collision. After such an incident, some vehicle owners may opt for a makeshift frame. However, this is dangerous as the registration plate may come off as you’re driving. Driving without a visible license plate is illegal in all states and can get you fined. Replacing your license plate frame immediately after it’s been damaged in a road incident ensures that your vehicle is compliant with state laws.
Even if you haven’t encountered an accident on the road, your old license plate frame might already be worn, faded, rusted, cracked, or chipped. If this is the case, you should have your license plate frame replaced to avoid problems.
Another benefit of replacing your license plate frame is to add a personal touch to your vehicle. License plate frames are easy-to-install and cost-effective upgrades that improve a vehicle’s aesthetics. License plate frames, especially the customizable type, allow you to make a statement or express your design preferences.
License Plate Frame Buying Criteria
Before buying a new license plate frame, there are several things you have to consider first. Consider the criteria listed below if you’re in the market for a new license plate frame:
Make sure to check the measurements (length, width, thickness) of the license plate frame you’re going to buy and see if your state’s license plate can fit snugly.
Material and Durability
Heavy-duty license plate frames are typically made out of metal such as stainless steel, aluminum, or zinc. Alloys are exceptionally lighter than other metals. If you’re going to opt for metal frames, choose something that’s corrosion-resistant. There are other materials available in the market that are both lightweight and corrosion-resistant. An example of this is carbon fiber.
The rule of thumb is to choose a replacement frame that can withstand the elements and last you a long time.
License plate frames have two to four screw holes. While two-hole frames hold the license plate in place, four-hole frames hold the entire thing together and prevent the license plate from rattling against the bumper of the car.
Some states may require a license plate for both the front and rear of the vehicle. Check your local DMV for more information on license plate regulations so you can buy the exact number of license plate frames you need.
State Law Compliance
Make sure to contact your local DMV for more information about license plate and license plate frame regulations since these laws are regularly updated. Keep in mind that some designs and types of license plate frames may not be allowed in some states so you’ll also need to note what designs are allowed in your location.
How much is a Replacement License Plate Frame?
The cost of aftermarket license plate frame replacements ranges from $20 to around $50. This range depends on a lot of factors such as the brand, location, series, material, color, finish, quantity, and fit of the replacement part.
Replacement license plate frames are usually sold individually, however, sets are also available. Sets and kits might include screws and sometimes even a screwdriver so you can easily install the license plate frame. Screw caps are also included in some sets as a way to prevent license plate theft as they hide the screws from view, although not all sets and kits provide these items.
You can buy license plate frames that are directly compatible with your vehicle’s year, make, and model but universal frames are also available
License plate frames also come in a wide assortment of materials, colors, and finishes. Steel frames are quite popular, as are polycarbonate and ABS plastic frames. Some brands offer a variety of colors such as green, purple, orange, gray, red, white, black, etc. As for the finish, most buyers opt for polished license plate frames but textured and chrome frames are available as well.
Finding the Right Fit
If you’re looking for a functional but fun aftermarket license plate frame, you can rely on CarParts.com for a part that can last you a long time. Aftermarket frames have a wider variety, can easily be sourced, and have more flexible prices than OEM parts.
The site features a wide variety of license plate frame replacements at a really great price. Use the site’s vehicle selector tool to view replacement parts that are directly compatible with your vehicle. Just enter your vehicle’s year, make, and model to make your search easier. You can also indicate more specific preferences for your desired part by using the site’s advanced search console. Finding the right fit has never been this fast and efficient.
How to Find the Best License Plate Frame for Your Car
No matter what your reason is, choosing your ideal license plate frame can be time-consuming and stressful. You need to know what exactly to look for when getting a new license plate frame. This way, you won't have to spend much time assessing each and every frame that you come across in the market. If you want to make your search quick and systematic, we have compiled below some of the things you can look out for when purchasing a replacement license plate frame.
It's always best to go for a replacement component that matches your vehicle's measurements. If you happen to lose or break your original license plate frame, you can always count on a replacement that's a direct fit to your car. Since you don't have to modify the plate frame anymore, you can get to enjoy your free time performing other car maintenance and repair tasks.
Another reminder when buying a frame is that you must make sure that the replacement frame's holes match the frame holes in your car's bumper. This will make the replacement easier and faster.
Collectible license plates
Due to the wide range of license plates available worldwide — rare, vintage plates to recently expired ones — some drivers find it enticing to collect license plates that go well with their frames. For your reference, here are the common license plate categories you can find:
- U.S. license plates: If you're a collector, you would usually gather a plate from every state in the US, and for every year that comes. It was a daunting task fifty years ago. However, that has changed today, since you can collect plates that are less broad — focusing on plates of a particular state or jurisdiction, specific types of plates, and birth year plates.
- World license plates: From the name itself, world license plates are those that originate from a certain country, island grouping, or continent. You may be interested in number plates, the international term for license plates, that can be hard to find due to its population, political climate, remoteness, and many other factors.
- Specific license plates: Nowadays, you can collect license plates of different types, categories, and other classifications. This can include older pre-state and porcelain types of plates, different classes of non-passenger plates, and plates with slogans among others.
Type of license plate frame
When choosing a new license plate frame for your car, you need to ensure that you determine first what type would fit your vehicle. Should it be fit for a car, a motorcycle, a scooter, or a bike? Moreover, you must identify if you want a license plate frame that's airbrushed, printed, engraved, or even computerized. Once you have identified what type of frame you want, assess its quality before making the purchase.
Design and theme of the frame
One more thing that you need to consider is the design of the license plate frame. This refers to the characteristics of the frame such as the material, the base hue of the frame, the images or graphics that you want printed on it, the color of these images, and any wording that you want printed on the frame. You should take note of your car's color when looking for a frame design.
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Step 9: If you have a separator plate, drill onto these using your old plate as a guide. Then, install the check ball, if applicable. Set up the separator plate into place, and re-attach the halves while making sure all the check balls are in place.
Step 10: Torque the bolts in a crisscross fashion using torque fasteners. Refer to your owner's manual for the appropriate torque amounts.
Step 11: Reinstall the torque converter drainback valve. Next, reinstall the manual valve detent. Examine the assembled valve body, the kickdown, and the detent. After returning everything into place, install the new throttle valve. Adjust it according to your vehicle's specs.