Short Answer: Is it illegal to drive without a bumper? Most states require your car to have bumpers (often both front and rear), but some states have no such laws. We have the state-by-state breakdown of bumper laws below.
Is It Illegal to Drive Without a Bumper?
Is it illegal to drive without a front bumper? Is it illegal to drive without a rear bumper? Not every state has an explicit law making driving without a bumper illegal. However, bumpers are an important safety feature of your car; they are designed to absorb impact and protect you.
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
- States with no specific bumper requirements
Suggested Article: Average Cost of Repairing or Replacing a Bumper
Below, we detail which states fall into each of these categories. Find your state in one of the categories below; we have 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.
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.
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.
States That Require All Cars to Have Bumpers
Bumpers, often front and rear, or an equivalent that meets safety standards are required on passenger cars in the following states. 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:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
States Where You Must Keep or Replace Bumpers
If your vehicle was originally designed without bumpers, the following states will allow you to drive it. However, any car that had bumpers (front and/or rear) when it left the factory must keep them or replace them with an equivalent that meets safety standards. Check the links below for specific provisions in your state.
States With No Specific Bumper Requirements
We didn’t find any requirements for bumpers, neither front nor rear, in the following states:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
Is it legal to drive without a bumper? Twenty-one states require bumpers for your car to be street-legal. Seven states require that you keep your car’s original bumpers intact or replace them with an equivalent that meets safety standards. In the remaining 22 states, the law doesn’t specifically say that bumpers are required. However, remember that the law can be complex and, in many 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.
For more on cars and car parts, see our article on parting out a car for profit.