Why are there so many cars without license plates in Arizona?
October 9, 2013 3:29 PM   Subscribe

We're on this trip, and in the Arizona part of it, we're seeing a lot of cars that don't have license plates (neither front nor back), on the road. What gives? Is there some exception? Is this a tea party thing?

Yours in travel,
posted by benbenson to Travel & Transportation around Arizona (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
a lot of cars with temporary paper registrations that were purchased in the US' vast used car market, and are in the process of being exported to mexico, one at a time?
posted by thewalrus at 4:16 PM on October 9, 2013

I know folks on some Native American reservations don't have plates on vehicles they're driving on the reservation. I don't know if they need them when driving on US roads. Were you on (or very close to) a reservation?
posted by rmd1023 at 4:23 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Arizona is one of the many states that don't require front plates. (Which states don't? See wikipedia on license plate mounting.)

Can't speak to AZ but in CA you've got three months (!) from when you receive your new car, to when you need to show its new license plates. (Used to be six months, and search results on this are cluttered with a Steve Jobs anecdote.) Really weird to see here, gave my father fits.

And not a teabagger thing, but an older right-wing legal disrespect -- I remember hearing about Tim McVeigh doing this, at that time, mid-90s, that people did it in Colorado and other Western states as a protest of government policy.
posted by Rash at 4:32 PM on October 9, 2013

I live in Arizona and I don't see this at all. We also don't have the Cali-style grace period at all - you can (and will) literally get ticketed driving home from the dealer with a new car, if you don't go online and print a temp plate to stick in the window for 3 days. I am curious if you were on a reservation as well, or what area you're in where you are seeing this.
posted by celtalitha at 6:50 PM on October 9, 2013

My experience, in Southern AZ anyway, was that you’d get a ticket one day after your registration expired, almost guaranteed. I can’t imagine driving around with no plates. As opposed to Southern California where people drive around with expired out of state plates for literally years.
posted by bongo_x at 7:29 PM on October 9, 2013

Yeah, I would suspect you aren't seeing the paper temporary registration in the window. Illinois used to have these, but they were massively abused, so they went to a more plasticized thing that goes directly where the metal plate is supposed to go, ages ago.
posted by dhartung at 5:07 AM on October 10, 2013

As an Arizonan I've never seen this, and my stomping grounds are Phoenix, Prescott, Sedona, and Flagstaff. Chalk another one up for the "DPS loves to give out tickets for missing/expired registration" crowd. I know a couple of friends who have been pulled over for that, and one was just one month late.

What part of Northern AZ were you seeing this?

Also, I hope your trip doesn't have you buying into the popular narrative that Arizona is a hillbilly desert tea party state. It's pretty diverse (geographically as I hope you've seen, and people/culture/politics). There are cities here (Flag, Sedona, even Tucson) that are as liberal as it gets out west.

What throws us off are our retirees (yay Sun City) and the fact that people who move here in droves tend to come from conservative places (practically everyone who moves here from California is from the Inland Empire or Orange County for example).

Native Arizonans are a lot more politically diverse. Most of us are pretty reasonable people, and we love our state... and we get a chip on our shoulder when the media makes people think it's all tea partiers and deserts!
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:41 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We've driven through Page, Flagstaff, and Sedona, seeing cars with no plates periodically along the way. Page is close to a reservation but we weren't on it. I've looked for a alternative or temporary plate/paper/sticker on the cars but haven't seen anything.
posted by benbenson at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2013

Anything similar with these cars? Are they all new ones for example? Maybe you're seeing a fleet of upcoming model test mules?
posted by Big_B at 12:36 PM on October 10, 2013

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