It’s the stomach-dropping moment when you see a piece of paper under the windshield wiper of your car, when you know something bad is about to happen.
It’s generally either one of two things: Either you’ve received a parking violation or ticket of some sort, or someone is kindly informing you of some misfortune that’s befallen your vehicle.
This time, it was a ticket. Procured, no less, while parked in a San Francisco parking garage.
“NO FRONT LICENSE PLATE,” it read.
The head-scratching problem? On this newer vehicle, there isn’t an obvious place to attach the plate, like the pre-drilled license plate holders of older cars. Instead, it seems that newer car owners are faced with either aggressive-looking front grilles, or seamless, smooth and curvy fronts as part of its design — see: newer Lexus vehicles or Teslas as examples — and no obvious solutions on how to attach the front plate yourself.
Sean Pour is a co-founder of SellMax, a national car-buying service based in San Diego, and he’s seen a lot of the car body trends since the company’s founding in 1990. And as he sees it, a number of the cars without front license plates tend to be the pricier cars on the market.
The shift has been, in my opinion, it’s been a lot of the luxury cars where people are very concerned about the looks of the car
There are a lot of newer [vehicles] like Teslas, BMWs, Porsches, Jaguars where they have this very nice front end, [or] big front end where they really want to show it off, Pour said. “They tend not to put the front license plates on, even though it is a law in California.”
For Pour, he estimated that the trend for cars to not prominently come with a front license plate mount began in 2016, under Tesla’s reign of popularity, with its smooth front.
“I think around 2016 is when it started to really take off,” Pour said. “And ever since then, I think Tesla is the car right now that everyone’s trying to imitate because they’re so popular, everyone’s following suit and it’s becoming more and more mainstream [to have a seamless front], in my opinion.”
The ticket, ahem, gifted to my vehicle was approximately a $100 fix-it ticket — which is painful, but nothing like the cost of a speeding ticket. But as Pour pointed out, if you can afford a luxury vehicle like a Tesla or Porsche, it might be easier to just shrug it off and eat the fine to preserve the beauty of your car.
“But a lot of people opt not to put it on,” Pour said, “and the majority of Teslas I see rarely have the front license plate. It’s kind of just a game of cat and mouse, I guess you could say, where the fine is just so small that someone who can afford a sixty, seventy thousand dollar car, paying a [fine] is anywhere from around 30 to 100 dollars. So I mean, to them the looks are more important than getting some small ticket.”
“I think if they made a heftier fine, people would [install the front plate],” Pour later added. “But if it’s just for thirty-five or a hundred bucks, is it even worth it to go and drill a hole on the car?”
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