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Can You Drive a Vehicle in Ontario with No Licence Plates?

The answer is no. You cannot drive a vehicle on public roads in Ontario without having the proper license plates. This is a rule that is enforced by the Highway Traffic Act.  The requirement for registering a motor vehicle in Ontario goes all the way back to 1903 and up until 1911 vehicle owners had to provide their own license plates. After this point, the Province of Ontario took over issuing the required plates.

Rules for Licence Plates

  • Every motor vehicle must have two plates attached to it.
  • One license plate in the front
  • One license plate in the back
  • Both license plates must be fully visible
  • License plates cannot be inside the vehicle
  • They cannot be hung from the windows
  • License plates cannot be dirty or obstructed with debris or any objects
  • Protective coverings used on license plates cannot obstruct the plate from being fully visible in any way
  • The plates cannot be damaged or broken

How Do You Get Licence Plates for Your Car in Ontario?

To get your required license plates you will need to obtain them from the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. This is done when you go to register your vehicle. The registration includes getting your vehicle permit, license plates, and license plate sticker. You will need all three to be able to drive a specific vehicle in Ontario.

The license plates belong to the licensed owner of the vehicle. They do not belong to the vehicle. Therefore if the vehicle is sold or taken off the road, then the license plates are removed from the vehicle. They are kept in possession of the owner.

If an owner decides to buy another vehicle, they do have the option of using the license plates they have purchased. But, these plates now have to be registered at the Ministry of Transportation as applicable to the new vehicle. This will be done through the registration process that is required for every vehicle.

Registration Process

The applicant needs;

  • Driver’s license or RIN
  • Completed used vehicle package
  • Proof of purchase
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Original vehicle permit from the seller
  • Plate portion of permit ( provided you already have license plates_
  • Safety standards certificate to get license plate sticker

If the buyer of the vehicle does not have license plates, they will need to purchase them at this time. The cost for these with a permit is $59.

Can You Drive a Car You Just Bought Without Plates?

buying car

If you are buying a new vehicle from a car dealership, they normally look after the entire registration process.

Temporary Licence Plate

To use your license plate temporarily, you will need a temporary license plate sticker. It might be that you need a few days to get the vehicle to a vehicle inspection station. You need to drive it there legally which means you need a sticker, but in this case, you can purchase a temporary sticker that can be used with your license plate. It will only be valid for ten days.  To obtain this, you will need;

  • Vehicle permit with a FIT or TMP status
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Your existing license plates
  • Plate portion of vehicle permit

If you don’t have plates, you will have to purchase them before you can be issued a temporary sticker

License Plate Offences

There are various types of offenses that can take place with the license plates which results in fines.

Some of the common offenses are;

  • No plates on the vehicle
  • Two plates are not on the vehicle
  • Both plates are not displayed properly
  • Part of either plate is not totally visible
  • One or both plates are dirty

What is the Penalty for Driving Without Licence Plates in Ontario?


Fines and Licence Plates

There are hefty fines for driving a vehicle in Ontario without license plates such as;

Drive motor vehicle, no plates$85.00
Drive motor vehicle, fail to display two plates$85.
Drive motor vehicle, plate improperly displayed$85.
Fail to remove plates on ceasing to be the owner$85.
Fail to retain plate portion of the permit$85.
Deface plateNo set fine
Alter plateNo set fine
Use defaced plateNo set fine
Permit use of defaced plateNo set fine
Permit use of altered plateNo set fine
Remove plate without authorityNo set fine
Use plate not authorized for vehicle$140.
Permit use of plate not authorized for vehicle$140.
Use or permit plate not in accordance with Act$140
Use or permit plate not in accordance with Reg.$140
Confuse the identity of the plate$85.
Obstruct plate$85
Dirty plate$85.
The entire plate is not plainly visible$85.
Obstruct plate, preventing accurate photograph by the red light camera system$85.
Obstruct plate preventing accurate photograph$85.
Obstruct plate preventing identification by toll system$85.

Most often with driving infractions, the fine is levied against the license plate holder. Even if the owner of the license plate was not driving the vehicle at the time of infractions.

The Ontario law requires that every license plate that is being used on a vehicle driven on Ontario roads has a valid sticker. These stickers are renewed each year or every two years depending on the preference of the applicant. Sometimes when an individual goes to get their sticker, they discover it is being denied because there is an unpaid fine that applies to that license plate. This is a new rule that came into effect in May of 2017 for Ontario.

Different Types of Licence Plates

Canadian Licence Plates


Government Officials

Government Officials are assigned specific serial numbers for their license plates.

Green Vehicle Plates

Those that own and drive green vehicles not only get a special-looking license plate, but it comes with some extra perks. They can only be used by plug-in hybrid, electric, and battery-operated vehicles. This special plate allows the vehicle it is on to have access to HOV Lanes.

Historic Vehicles

Any vehicle in Ontario that is more than thirty years old can qualify for a historic license plate. These cost less, but there are restrictions to the use of the vehicle that is plated with one of these.

Other categories of plates are commercial plates, farm plates, and non-passenger plates.

Personalized Licence Plates

Registration Plates on the Wall

Something that has become quite common is to now have personalized license plates. These can be personalized in some ways;

  • The plate buyer can choose the graphic they want from a choice of 60+ that are available
  • It can contain any combination of numbers and letters

To purchase the personalized license plate the buyer must have the driver’s license number or RIN. All outstanding fines must be paid before these plates can be purchased. This also includes any outstanding payments that are owed for the Highway 407 toll.

  • The cost for the personalized is around $310. For two to eight characters but no graphic.
  • If there is a graphic then two to six characters are allowed with it at the cost of $336.40.

The owner of license plates has the responsibility of making sure that the plates are properly used and remain compliant with the laws.

One Comment

  1. Steve 29 June 2021 at 11:05 am - Reply

    If I get a electric car from China and it’s top speed is 60kmh. Do I still need a license?

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