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Green Massachuetts License Plates

My vehicle failed inspection due to a worn green Massachusetts license plate. After some research, I figure I would like to try repainting it myself. Any suggestions?

It’s a felony to alter a license plate. This includes painting it.

Why not just get a set of new license plates from the state DOT?


I beg your pardon, but “repainting” is NOT altering. The definition of altering is to “change or make different”. By repainting one is doing neither. Thank you for your input. Have a happy day!

It’s not just 'paint’
and you can not replicate the reflective property of the coating they used originally.
It IS altering because it’s not the same result.
( at night, a light shined on the plate will show what appears to be a blacked out portion…the non-reflective part you painted…and THAT is altered from original and will garner a citation. )

Get a new plate.


Agreed. Repainting cannot replicate the special reflective properties of the original. You might as well create your own out of plywood. It’s time to apply for a new plate.

A new set of plates costs $50 in MA. When you factor in the cost of reflective paint, etching primer, and your time, you’re not really coming out ahead.

I’d wager the OP isn’t comming back to read our comments
judging by the snide tone of their condescending reply.
Me thinks the OP has their mind made up already…why even ask if not prepared to listen to the answers both pro and con…they’re going to get themselves thrown in to the state pen where they can …

correctly make their own new license plate !:))

MA people hang onto those old plates like they’re golden eggs. They only issued one plate back then and a lot of people do not like the look of a front plate. Once they’re worn out they have to update to the new plates and use front and back plates.

It is illegal to restore them. You need to update, like it or not. I see people drving around and they’re not even legible anymore. Where i last lived, they sent you new plates about every 5 years whether you wanted or not.

To “Ken Green” ~ I, as the “OP”, was not snide or condescending in any manner. I believe I corrected “Tester’s” misnomer, thanked him and wished him a happy day. Is there something wrong with that?

I have, just now, read all of your answers. I was working so I hadn’t checked earlier.
I thank you, once again, for your input.

And if I may or so bold, I didn’t realize it was considered snide or condescending to wish an individual to “Have a happy day!”. Perhaps it is your part of the world but not in MASSACHUSETTS!

Boos…typically, when you say to have a happy day, it’s not snide. But in context of the rest of your statements there, it certainly sounded snide to me. Maybe it’s just me because I’m from NH, and we live such drastically different lifestyles and the language is so different I was confused. Sorry. I didn’t comment because of the tone of your post.

Remember, we can’t see you. We only have what you type to go by. If you could see me, you’d know I was kicking back, having a beer, after fixing things around the house today, hoping to lend someone a helpful hand, and in a generally very good mood. :slight_smile:


Typically I am not a Chat Room person, but after my recent inspection experience, then listening to Car Talk today, I thought I would solicit suggestions from this forum. You made me sorry that I bothered at all. I didn’t realize I would upset the mens’ club. Thank you.

BoosBees, the state defines whether painting is acceptable or not. While it may seem acceptable to you, they do not agree. And they issue and collect fines for violating the code. I suppose you read the article in the URL provided by Tester, and will abide by the law. That wasn’t clear from you last response. If MA is anything like MD, they gave you a certain amount of time to go to a police station and show that the plates were replaced. In MD, the fines escalate for not taking care of the violation in the allotted time. It’s your call, and I think the other responders are just trying to help you avoid the fines.

The old, single, green Mass. plate are TREASURED items, passed down from car to car, father to son…Owners of these plates will go to any length to keep them in service…They feel it’s a GREAT advantage to only need ONE (on the rear) license plate. When Massachusetts decided to require two plates, front and rear, they changed the color and number system. This instantly made the old single green plates treasured items since no provision was made to require motorists to use the new plates…As long as the old single plates were “serviceable”, they were okay to use…They are all at least 20 years old…
BoosBees, do not despair…There is someone who offers to “restore” old license plates to the correct colors and reflectivity specifications…Below is the link to this service…Freedom?? Ha! Not when it comes critical things like license plates…I mean, how do you expect a photo-radar to work if you don’t have a front plate??

To Caddyman ~ Thank you but I had already corresponded this morning with Rod Pearman at He pointed out that stated on the website they note that the only restore embossed plates and do not apply the reflectorization paint. Thus, they can’t do anything with the green Mass plates. By the way, I did venture upon a site for a product that interferes with the photo-radar; now that should be illegal.

Just so the rest of you gentlemen know, I only had a thought about the repainting, never said I was definite. I do realize that the Mass RMV wants the green plates to become extinct.

I must say, that while most of you were helpful in your posts a few seemed a bit hostile. I am not an overly sensitive person but after being treated as though an idiot by the Service Manager at the dealership where the inspection was done, I was taken aback by some of your comments.

I went to the dealership on Tuesday with a few issues, i.e. check engine (oxygen sensor), needing tires, realignment, oil change, door handle repair, A/C blowing hot air and only working on low and high. Well, when the first Service Manager gave me the quote I declined the blower mechanism (@275.00 P and L), as well as the oxygen sensor (@ 400.00 P and L). When the second Service Manager called to say the car was ready, three days later, he never said a word about the failed inspection.

When I arrived, the second Service Manager started to go over the charges with me one of which, you guessed it, was the blower motor. He wasn’t very happy when I said that it was not to be done at this time since the A/C alone was going to be around 1200.00 since one of the lines was frozen and they could not remove it. Even the super-duper WD-40 wouldn’t work, I was told. Needless to say, I did not pay for the blower motor.

The really irritating part is that initially two people, one was the first Service Manager, did a walk around the car before I left it and they both looked at the plate. One even mentioned it; about it being green. Live and learn.

Good night.

My gosh. It failed because your plate is bad. You need to get new plates. Too bad if it costs $50 but you just can’t make your own unless you’re inside the prison walls. I can’t believe we are having this conversation. And no, you can’t make your own drivers license either.

To make paint reflective, the surface is dusted with fine powdered glass while the paint is still wet…Not a complex process…Only the raised letters and numbers get that treatment…The plate is first painted a solid color, then the raised characters are painted with a hard roller and dusted with the glass powder…

I think you are correct, the motor vehicle inspectors have been told to “retire” all the 20 year old green plates…The end of an era…

I’m having a hard time believing that they failed inspection for this…I see those faded green MA license plates all the time…every day…no matter where I go. This something new??? I know the RWB plates have been around for a while…Reason people want to keep those green ones is because when they were issued you didn’t have to mount 2…just one on the rear…but the new RWB ones…you have to have BOTH.

Sorry Mike, it is aprt of the inspection, paltes must be legible.
That said, the system is BS. Either one plate is fine for anyone, not just those with 20 year old green plates, or everyone needs to have two.

I don’t doubt the law…just that it seems to be arbitrarily applied here…As I said…you can go anywhere in MA and see those old faded green license plates…Find out where they get their car inspected…because it’s obvious the people inspecting their cars don’t care.