Short Answer: Most states require your car to have bumpers (often both front and rear), but others will allow you to drive a car if it was specifically designed without bumpers. Additionally, some states do not have laws specifically relating to bumpers. Keep in mind that even if your state does not technically require bumpers, police can still issue a citation if they deem your vehicle to be unsafe for the roads. Below, we provide the state-by-state breakdown of bumper laws.
Is It Illegal to Drive Without a Bumper?
In many states, it is illegal to drive a car without front and rear bumpers. These regulatory laws are in places because bumpers are an important car safety feature, and driving a car without them can be extremely dangerous in the event of a wreck.
We reviewed state statutes, administrative codes, and car inspection requirements in each state and found that each state falls into one of three categories:
- States that require all cars to have bumpers
- States where you must keep or replace bumpers if they were originally on the car, as designed by the manufacturer
- Note: In these states, if the car was not originally designed with bumpers, you can drive it without them.
- States with no specific bumper requirements
Note that many states forbid driving a car in an “unsafe condition” or with broken pieces protruding. If your bumper is missing, damaged, or unsafely attached, it’s possible the police in your area could consider your car unsafe. Police can give you a ticket in these instances, even if the state’s legal code does not explicitly mention missing or damaged bumpers. The fact that your state has no specific requirements for bumpers would not guarantee your success if fighting that ticket in court.
All states also require you to display license plates on the front and/or back of your car. Without a bumper, you will still need to attach the plates somehow.
Bumper Requirements by State
The table below details which states fall into each category. When possible for each state, we’ve included links to each state’s relevant legislation or safety inspection manual for further information. If you still aren’t sure whether or not your car is street-legal, you may want to contact a local attorney or your state department of motor vehicles.
Some states make exceptions for particular types of vehicles, such as trucks over a certain weight. If you drive something other than a standard passenger vehicle or SUV, check the link for your state to see if you’re covered:
Penalties for Driving Without Bumpers
If your state requires your car to have bumpers and you are caught driving without them, typical penalties include traffic citations and fines. If you allow these types of infractions to accumulate, you may face the possibility of going to court and/or jail time. Because of this, it is important to be aware of your state’s regulations, keep your car up to code, and pay for any tickets/citations in a timely manner.
There are 21 states require bumpers for your car to be street-legal, and seven that require you to keep your car’s original bumpers intact or replace them with an equivalent that meets safety standards. These seven states also, however, allow you to drive your car if it was originally designed and manufactured without bumpers. In the remaining 22 states, the law doesn’t specifically say that bumpers are required. However, keep in mind that in most states, police have the authority to write you a ticket for driving an “unsafe” vehicle even if the legal code does not include bumper requirements.
If your car’s bumpers are damaged and you live in a state that requires them, we explain how much it costs to repair bumpers. For more on state policies for car parts, we explain whether or not it’s illegal to drive without a hood or without airbags.