Are Red License Plate Lights Illegal in California?

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Are Red License Plate Lights Illegal in California

In the diverse world of vehicle modifications, one question that often surfaces is the legality of red license plate lights in California. Understanding the state’s Vehicle Code is crucial for vehicle owners who wish to customize their vehicles while remaining compliant with the law. This article delves into the specifics of California’s regulations regarding license plate lights, with a focus on the use of red lights.

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California Vehicle Code and License Plate Light Regulations

California’s Vehicle Code provides comprehensive guidelines on vehicle lighting. Key sections relevant to license plate lights include § 25950, § 24601, and § 5201.

  • Section 25950: This section addresses the color of lamps and reflectors on vehicles, emphasizing that they should follow specified standards unless exceptions are stated​​.1
  • Section 24601: This section specifically mentions that the rear license plate must be illuminated with a white light during darkness, ensuring it is clearly legible from a distance​​.2
  • Section 5201: Outlines the requirements for securely fastening license plates to ensure they are visible and legible​​.3

The Legality of Red License Plate Lights

While the Vehicle Code is explicit about the requirements for lighting and visibility of license plates, it does not explicitly mention the legality of red license plate lights. The standard practice involves using white lights for license plate illumination to ensure visibility and compliance with the law. The color of the light plays a significant role in ensuring visibility and meeting the state’s legal requirements.

Considerations for Vehicle Owners

Vehicle owners considering modifications should be aware of the following:

  • Visibility and Compliance: White is the most common color for license plate lights due to its high visibility and compliance with state laws​​.4
  • Potential Legal Issues: Deviating from standard lighting colors, such as using red for license plate lights, could potentially lead to legal issues if they don’t comply with state regulations​​.5


In conclusion, while California’s Vehicle Code specifies the requirements for lighting and visibility of license plates, it does not directly address the use of red license plate lights. Vehicle owners should prioritize standard lighting practices, such as using white lights, to ensure compliance with visibility requirements and avoid potential legal complications. For those considering any modifications, consulting the specific sections of the Vehicle Code or seeking legal advice is advisable to ensure adherence to California regulations.

This article provides a summary and interpretation of the California Vehicle Code as it relates to license plate lights. For detailed information and legal advice, consulting the official California Vehicle Code or a legal professional is recommended.


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