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How Low Can You Go? The Legality of Your Drop


This question is all over internet forums – how low can you drop your car before it’s no longer street legal? The short answer is that there is no law, federal or state-specific (countries outside the USA notwithstanding) that outlines how far off the ground the lowest point of your vehicle should be.

Instead, any driver’s top priority when dropping their vehicle should be to make sure the headlights and license plate are probably positioned to be safe and compliant with local law.

Addressing it with law enforcement

Law enforcement officers are unlikely to pull drivers over simply because their vehicles are low to the ground, however it may come up during a routine traffic stop. Police officers may use your driver’s license or another standard sized object to test how low your vehicle is, and some may look to see if your car is lower than your rims. While you are unlikely to be ticketed solely for your car’s clearance, you can probably expect some questions so be prepared to address them.

Complying with license plate height law requirements

Although not every state has a required height range for license plates, there are several that are explicit.

License plates must be 12 inches or higher from the ground in order to be properly visible in these states:

  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you choose to lift your vehicle then the license plates must not be higher than 48 inches in these states:

  • New York
  • Washington

Complying with headlight height law requirements

Although it might seem pedantic, the requirements for headlight height is important not only to ensure safe, adequate illumination for other drivers, but also to ensure that bumpers are within a safe height range in a collision.

If your headlights and bumper are too low to the ground, it’s a good indication that your vehicle will be hit by the bumper of other vehicles in a collision. Conversely, headlights and bumpers that are too high can pose a problem to other drivers both in terms of lighting, and where you’ll hit another vehicle. Lifted vehicles could impact on weak glass or center roof supports instead of the stronger frame, which will cause a lot more damage and injury.

This is why simply angling your headlights won’t always compensate, and states have specific guidelines over just how high your headlights can be mounted. To check your headlights, measure from the ground up to the center of the lowest bulb on your car headlight assembly. If you drive a Subaru STi or Mitsubishi Evolution, it might be a little harder to tell what’s a fog light and what’s a headlight, but for the most part it should be pretty easy to tell.

Headlights must be between 24 and 54 inches from ground level in these states:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Washington DC
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Texas

The state of Colorado has a headlight maximum height of 44 inches with no minimum height.

If you’re dropping a recreational vehicle that you don’t intend of ever taking on the road, then the ground is literally the limit! Have fun, and stay safe (or as safe as you possibly can).

Not matter how low the drop, if you need to get your car into a trailer, onto a lift or just get it up high enough for an oil change in your driveway, Race Ramps products are intentionally designed for those low profile cars!

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