What Makes A Car Street Legal: A Look At The Requirements

What makes a car street legal?’ is something that most people consider when modifying or upgrading their car. The requirements for street-legal cars differ based on the state you are living in and involve parts like the windshield and tires.

Car Street Legal ~ Ran When Parked

If you meet the requirements on what makes a car street-legal, you can drive your car without worrying about breaking any laws, so check with the local DMV when making upgrades. In this guide, we take a closer look at what makes a car street-legal.

What Are the Requirements for Street Legal Cars?

The requirements for street legal cars are windshields made of safety glass, tires free from cracks and cuts, brakes in good working condition, and lights and reflectors should be the correct color. Also, it should have a valid license for your state.

If you’re thinking of modifying your car or you are purchasing a kit car, you should ensure it meets the safety requirements. If you are buying a stock car, you can also modify it to make it street-legal.


The windshield of a street-legal car should be made with safety glass. The glass should not be tinted either way, cracked or damaged in any way.


Street-legal cars should have brakes that are working properly. The brake pads should be in proper working condition without being worn down.

Brakes of a Car ~ Ran When Parked

You should also have enough brake fluid in your car to prevent accidents on the road.

Windshield Wiper

Another factor that makes cars street legal is windshield wipers in great working condition. The wipers should have enough strength to clear out rain, debris and snow from the windshield without getting damaged. You should also have another pair of windshield wipers.

Lights and Reflectors

Street-legal cars should be fitted with the right lights and reflectors. The car should have white headlights, red stop lights, amber taillights and white license lights. The backup lights should be white, while the hazard warning signals should be amber or red. The turn signals should also have amber lights.

The lights and reflectors on the car should be the correct color, and you should be able to see it from a distance. The reflectors on the rear and sides should be red or amber. These would help other drivers see the car when driving in the dark.

Valid License Plates

A car should come with valid license plates for it to be street-legal. The plates should be registered to the car, mounted to the rear and front of the car, and be visible from a distance.

Seat Belts

The street-legal vehicles should also come with seatbelts for all passengers. The front seats for the driver and passenger should come with lap or shoulder belts, while the back seats should come with lap belts.

Using Seat Belts ~ Ran When Parked

The seatbelts must be functioning properly.

Steering Wheel

The steering is an important part of your car, as it helps you maneuver. The steering should be in great condition and free from damage and cracks. The steering should also have a diameter of 13 inches.


All cars that are street-legal should have tires that are free of cracks or cuts. It should also have good tread. The tires should be the correct size for your car, and you can also install mud flaps on it. It would stop dirt from getting into other vehicles while driving and protect the paint job.

Exhaust System

The exhaust system is another important part of your car, and you need to meet requirements for the vehicle to be street-legal. The exhaust system should be in good working condition, and it should not be leaking or making strange noises.

Exhaust System of a Car ~ Ran When Parked

Also, there should not be visible exhaust fumes when driving.


The horn is a warning device that should be heard loudly by other drivers. The safety feature allows drivers to warn or signal others on the road.


A street-legal car should be designed with two rear vision mirrors. The mirrors should give a clear view of the sides and the back of your car. When driving your car, the rear vision mirrors allow you to see other cars and prevent accidents. The mirrors should also not be broken or cracked.

What Makes a Car Not Street Legal?

A car is not street legal when it has tinted windows, aftermarket exhaust systems, neon and LED lights, lower clearance, and obstructive plate frames. Even if you enjoy modifying your car, you should avoid making modifications that are not street-legal.

Car enthusiasts enjoy modifying your car, but some of these mods can get you in trouble with the law.

Tinted Windows

In many states in the USA, it is illegal to have tinted windows on your car. Some states also regulate how dark the tint should be, so you might be able to lightly tint your car windows.

Tinted Windows of Vehicle ~ Ran When Parked

You can visit the DMV to know how much tint you can add to your window and what is legal in your state.

Neon Lights

It’s illegal to use neon on your car lights in most states. Neon can distract other drivers when you’re driving, so you should avoid upgrading your car with them.

LED Lights

LED lights are becoming a popular option among car enthusiasts, but this does not mean that they are legal in all states. Some states don’t allow them in cars because they can be too bright.

Aftermarket Exhaust Systems

Some drivers modify the exhaust system of their car to make it sound louder when driving. By removing the muffler or changing any other part of your exhaust system, you can get in trouble with the law. For one, the car might be too loud, and that is illegal. It might also affect how much smoke is coming out of your car.

Lower Ground Clearance

Some people lower the suspension of their car so that it has a better look. But if you lower your suspension too much, the clearance would be too low.

Lower Ground Clearance ~ Ran When Parked

This would affect your car’s performance and can even be dangerous, especially if the bottom of your car scraps the floor when driving over bumps.

What Makes a Car Street Legal in California?

A car is street legal in California when it has passed smog inspections, has a noise of about 95 decibels, and meets the window tinting requirements. Also, under-glow lights are legal, but you need to meet specific laws for the size, positioning and color of the lights.

For a vehicle to be registered as street-legal, you need to carry out smog inspections, which are valid for 90 days. The noise from the exhaust control system and muffler must not go past 95 decibels.

California also has specific laws on window tinting. The tinting on the windshield should have a transparent strip on the top five inches of the windshield. Color altering is not permitted for tinting. In the front window, 70% of light should be allowed through the tint. But there are no requirements for the rear window.

What Makes a Car Street Legal in Florida?

A car is street legal in Florida when it has two braking systems, front and rear bumpers mounted within certain heights, and an exhaust control system that has not been tampered with. There are requirements for the side windows, but the rear windows cannot be tinted.

Car Street Legal in Florida ~ Ran When Parked

In Florida, your car needs to have two braking systems and a functional parking brake. The braking system should be able to stop your car within the braking distance. Also, for cars and pickup trucks, there should be front and rear bumpers. These should be mounted within particular height levels.

The rear windows of the car cannot be covered or treated with any material to make the window non-transparent. Also, the side windows cannot be covered or treated with any material that reflects over 35% of light.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Car Horsepower Is Street Legal in the US?

The car horsepower that is street legal in the US is as much power as you like. You can have as much horsepower as you like as long as your car meets safety requirements, like using the right tires, lights, speedometer, mirrors and seatbelts.

Who Decides Whether A Car Is Street Legal?

The government decides whether a car is street legal or not. In the United States, all cars must follow the laws set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to be seen as street-legal. You can also check the DMV to see the laws on being street-legal.

Can A Homemade Car Be Street Legal?

A homemade car can be street legal as long as it has been registered. For a car to be registered by the government, it should meet all the safety regulations.

Homemade Car Be Street Legal ~ Ran When Parked

Once your custom car has been inspected and meets all the requirements, you can register it and start driving.

Can You Make A Race Car Street Legal?

You can make a race car street legal, but it depends on the class of the car. If you own a race car, you can visit a reliable mechanic to modify the car so that it fits the safety requirements of the state you are in. But it would also cost a lot to make a race car street-legal.


With our article on ‘What makes a car street legal?’ you now know the requirements you need to meet to drive safely. Here’s a rundown of what our article has to cover:

  • A car is street-legal when the windshield is made of safety glass, the brakes of good condition, the tires are free of cracks, and the lights are of the correct color.
  • A car that is not street-legal would have tinted windows, neon and LED lights, aftermarket exhaust and license frames.
  • The laws for street-legal cars differ based on the state.

If you’re worried about whether your car is street-legal or not, you should inspect it and check if it meets the safety requirements. You should also check with the DMV in your state.


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