Does My Trailer Need A License Plate?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

If you are wondering whether your trailer needs a license plate, the answer is simple: that depends on the state you live in.

Each state has different regulations, rules and exceptions for trailer road safety and license plates. This may sound confusing but this article aims to provide information on license plate exemptions and other things you need to know for towing a trailer safely and legally.

Does My Trailer Need A License Plate?

Whether you need a license plate for your trailer or not depends on the state you live in. A general is that you usually do require a license plate unless you meet certain criteria for the below exemptions:

Your Trailer Was Recently Purchased

If you just picked up your trailer, you don’t have to worry about driving it home without a license plate. You can instead show its bill of sale, if you are asked to provide proof. Almost every state allows you to use any verified copy of the bill of sale for the trailer.

So if you want to take out your newly purchased tagless trailer on the road, remember to take your bill of sale with you. Alternatively, you can also put it in the actual spot intended for the license place, which is also acceptable, though make sure that it’s protected from rain and wind so you don’t lose it.

However, most states need you to register a trailer within 30 days from the purchase date.

Trailer Type And Use

In some states, you will find that certain types of trailers are also exempt from a license plate. These are usually trailers used for hauling items from farms like livestock, tobacco, vegetables or farming equipment. These things can be towed in a trailer without a license.

The same applies to trailers that are used to tow other vehicles, such as tow dollies. Some states, like South Carolina, even allow certain trailers from nearby states to be towed without a license plate.

Pop-up Campers

Most pop-up campers are typically light and small which makes them easier to tow. You will usually need a license plate for pop-up campers but some states may not require them as these campers are so light and small.

Travel Trailers

A travel trailer is essentially an RV you tow behind another vehicle. For this, you will need a license plate for both the towing vehicle and the trailer, though the individual registration requirements can vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s best to check with your local state DMV to find out more information on what you need for your travel trailer.

How Often Do You Have To Register Your Trailer?

The validity of registration for your trailer depends on the state you live in and on the type of trailer. Renewal of the registration ensures that DMV keeps up-to-date files of your trailer.

For travel trailers, you need to replace your license plates every five years but you must register the trailer more often. Many states require you to register your trailer annually but this depends on the state you live in.

Utility trailers need to be registered every two years throughout the United States.

How Do You Get A License Plate For Your Trailer?

Usually your local DMV distributes license plates, including plates for trailers. If you want to obtain a license plate for your trailer you’ll need a few documents, such as the title of the trailer together with the necessary signatures. Sometimes also a bill of sale is sufficient but generally the title is your best option.

For the trailer license plate you may also need a signed application for the license and the title, proof of the trailer insurance and a receipt of paid personal property tax. This is usually applicable for stationary trailers but in some cases also applies to other trailers. With the application for license plate you’ll also need to pay any relevant registration and title fees.

Penalties For Towing A Trailer Without A License Plate

It’s good to be aware of any potential penalties if you get caught towing a trailer without a license plate.

Penalties are in place to deter people from taking the risk of towing their trailer sans license plate. You also shouldn’t use a temporary alternative plate on your trailer as this could lead to a more serious offense and a larger fine.

If you are caught, you can expect a ticket, or as a minimum a warning. It’s best to err on the side of caution and ensure that you are abiding by the local regulations and laws.

What Else Do You Need To Know To Tow A Trailer?

While the requirements for a license plate for a trailer vary widely across states, there is a greater focus on road safety for trailers in all states. This includes particularly lighting and brakes.

Generally, it’s a obvious given that your trailer has working taillights for it to be seen in traffic but each state also has its own specific brake laws.

Some states are stricter on trailer road safety than others. The majority of states also require you to have backup safety chains, turn signals and brake lights for your trailer. All these vehicle accessories will ensure greater road safety.

Also, weight and the dimensions of the trailer can have an impact on what you need to do. Usually, the width of the trailer should not exceed 8 feet, and the height shouldn’t go beyond 14 feet.


Whether or not your trailer requires a license plate is entirely dependent on the state where you live. With each state having different regulations and laws for licensed vehicles, you best contact your local DMV for more information.

It’s also a good idea to know your trailer’s dimensions, including its exact height, length, and width, to avoid potential accidents when you are on the road.

Also bear in mind that when you are moving to another state, regulations may change.