License Plates for Truck Camper Rigs: Which Plate Goes Where and When?

Get Two or Do the Switcheroo

If you’re wondering about license plate placement on your truck camper rig and which plate goes where and when, you’re not alone. There appears to be some confusion about this issue in the truck camper community. A big reason for this confusion relates to the differing laws in our country. Each state has its own laws as it relates to truck camper registration and licensing. Fortunately, the laws in most states aren’t that much different from each other. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Let’s take a look.

At present, there are 10 states that classify the truck camper as a recreational vehicle rather than cargo: Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. In these states the truck camper is registered and licensed separately from the truck that carries it. In other words, truck camper rigs in these 10 states will display two entirely different plates—one for the truck, the other for the camper. This is pretty simple, there’s really no confusion about this. The real confusion lies with the remaining 40 states and what’s required by law. In these states the truck camper is considered cargo and doesn’t need to be registered.

That sounds easy, so what’s the problem? Well, in these 40 states there’s a small gray area. For truck campers with an overhang in the rear, the truck’s license plate is difficult to see. The law in most states requires that the license plate be visible from the rear of the vehicle 200 feet away. Unfortunately, the camper’s overhang often makes viewing the plate difficult if not impossible, especially up close. In such cases, officers may ticket you for having an obscured plate. Personally, I’ve never had a problem in the many states I’ve been in with my camper. This appears to be the case for most truck camper owners, too. Unfortunately, some owners have been ticketed by law enforcement officers for having an obscured plate, so it can be an issue.

Get Two or Do the Switcheroo

So what’s the solution? It’s not that difficult. Get two license plates for your truck and place the extra license plate on your camper. If your state doesn’t provide two license plates you might be able to order another plate for your camper at cost or you could order a special personalized license plate for your truck (states that offer special personalized plates typically provide two). This is what I did here in Arizona when I recently ordered a personalized Route 66 plate for my truck. The main plate with the registration tag is displayed on my truck, while the “non-tagged” plate is mounted on my camper. If getting another truck plate isn’t an option, you’ll have to switch your license plate back and forth between the truck and the camper before and after each outing. Sure, this can be a pain, but it is what it is. If you don’t have two plates, you’ll have to do the switcheroo.

For a list of states that require truck camper registration and titling, click here.

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About Mello Mike 452 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

6 Comments

  1. I have a Lance 1130 which is 11.5ft long on an 8ft bed F350. The truck’s rear plate cannot even be seen when the camper is mounted. In CA, they require both front and rear plates and will not issue a 3rd. I just took a photo and printed it on my home color laser printer on an 8-1/2 x 11 paper which means the copy is slighlty smaller than the original…..then put it in between stiff plastic of a plastic file folder and mounted it….It looks similar to the original. Definitely does not ‘shine’ like the original with reflective paint. I recently took a 6800 mile, 14 state trip as well as several in-state trips and have had no issues. I recommend this approach and if stopped, am prepared to defend my ‘best solution in the face of unsupportive bureaucrats’ approach.

  2. Indiana does not require, nor can you get a tag for your truck camper. Either you must move the plate back and forth or you can follow Doyle Crews suggestion and duplicate a copy. You can obtain a voluntary registration/title for your TC, but, it comes without a plate. I ran into this a couple of years ago when trading in my previous TC. I have re-verified this information with both the Indiana Bureau of motor vehicles and the Indiana state police.
    Steve

  3. I share the concern about not properly displaying my truck tag, but Alabama does not issue a second tag. So I Xerox my truck tag (at an office supply store such as Staples), laminate the copy and mount it on the camper.

  4. Minnesota requires two plates, each with a registration tag on a vehicle. I went into the DMV to get a 3rd plate as my Lance 981 Max covers my plate on the truck. The Lady said “No way!”, you cannot have a 3rd plate. So I just drive around with the plate covered when the camper is on. Someday I will probably get a ticket.
    I suppose I could have told her that one fell off, but I think they would have issued me two new plates rather than an extra duplicate plate.
    I like the idea of personal plates, I probably could have gotten a third if I lost one. I believe the plate number expires every 7 years here in Minnesota.

      • Mike,
        I’m a manufacturing engineer. I have always worked in private manufacturing. Profit-driven business would readily adapt to a need if there was potential profit. For State govrnments, profit is never a motive so there is no incentive to adapt. They are driven by regulatory mandate, which rarely accommodates exceptions. I imagine state governments would contract to have license plates mass manufactured in pairs (only) from a contractor. I am not surprised that it is impossible to find a state that has the capacity to go back and make a ‘one-off’. While some manufacturers are set up for ‘mass customization’, I’m quite sure government is well behind the times….the process alone to request a specific plate reprint and communicate it is an administrative specialty likely quite beyond any state government…..just go to any DMV to experience the state of ‘administrative efficiency’ and you’ll have your answer…..

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