| Car Life
A motorcycle flies the American flag

Independence Day is a time when Americans across the country proudly display the Stars and Stripes everywhere, from their front lawns to their car doors. Lots of cities even have parades that welcome local citizens to participate by decorating their vehicles or towing floats. If you want to join in the festivities, don’t hesitate to display the American flag in all its red, white, and blue glory. Pickup, hatchback, SUV—it doesn’t matter what you drive, as long as you do it carefully and decorate respectfully. The same goes for motorcycles. Just make sure you have the proper car insurance or motorcycle insurance so you can ride in your local parade safely.

Before you head out, however, know that there are some guidelines for displaying the flag on non-military vehicles. Here are some helpful flag etiquette do’s and don’ts to follow, no matter what you drive.

How to Display the American Flag on a Car


  • Display a single U.S. flag with the staff firmly affixed to the chassis or the right front fender, according to the United States Flag Code.
  • Adjust flags in the post holes of the bed of a pickup truck so they are the same size and height.
  • Fly the American flag to the marching right of another flag or in the center position if flown with a group of flags.


  • Ever drape the American flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of a car, according to the United States Flag Code.
  • Fly the flag at half-staff.
  • Fly other flags higher than the American flag.
  • Fly flags larger than the American flag (equal size is okay).

How to Display the American Flag on a Motorcycle

The United States Flag Code doesn’t specifically address motorcycles, but these are some generally promoted guidelines from various sources.


  • Mount the American flag at the center of the rear of the bike or to the driver’s right-hand side, according to Car and Driver.
  • Fly the American flag to the marching right of another flag or in the center position if flown with a group of flags.


  • Mount the flag on the driver’s left side.
  • Fly the flag at half-staff.
  • Fly any other flag higher than the American flag.
  • Fly any other flag larger than the American flag. (Flags of equal size are acceptable.)

About Service Flag Etiquette

Military service flags should be lined up in the following order, always lower than the U.S. flag:

  1. U.S. Army
  2. U.S. Marine Corps
  3. U.S. Navy
  4. U.S. Air Force
  5. U.S. Coast Guard
  6. U.S. Merchant Marine
  7. U.S. Army National Guard
  8. U.S. Army Reserve
  9. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
  10. U.S. Naval Reserve
  11. U.S. Air National Guard
  12. U.S. Air Force Reserve
  13. U.S. Coast Guard Reserve

As we noted with motorcycle flag etiquette above, you might see different guidance on how to fly the flag depending on where you look. If you’re unsure, consider contacting a local organization, like the nearest American Legion Post or Veterans Affairs Office. They might be able to steer you in the right direction. While you won’t get in legal trouble for flying the flag incorrectly, you want to make sure you’re being as respectful as possible.

U.S. flag color meaning: red, white, and blue

Let’s go back a few hundred years. Before there was the U.S. flag that we know today, there was the Grand Union Flag, the first national flag of the United States (also known as Continental Colors, the Congress Flag, and the Cambridge Flag, used from 1775-1777). Like the current U.S. flag, it also had 13 red and white stripes. However, in the upper inner corner, or canton, of the flag there was a red, white, and blue British Union Flag instead of stars.

When designing the new, official U.S. flag, the red, white, and blue were borrowed from the Grand Union Flag. However, the three colors did not actually have any meaning until the design of the Great Seal of the United States from 1776 to 1782.

Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, said of the Great Seal’s symbolism, “White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness & valor; and Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.” From that day, the meaning stuck and was applied to both the Great Seal and the American flag. Even today, there is no official assignment of meaning to the colors of the flag. However, Thomson’s words have carried on in custom and tradition.

Stars & stripes forever

What about the stars and stripes? The 50 white stars (50 since July 4, 1960) stand for the 50 states of the union. And the seven red and six white horizontal stripes, or pales, represent the original 13 states, or British colonies.

Plus, according to the House of Representatives’ 1977 book about the flag, “The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.”

Days to Fly the American Flag

The 4th of July isn’t the only day to fly the American flag. There are other days the flag should be flown, too. While the flag can (and often should) be displayed daily from sunrise to sunset, the U.S. Flag Code lists the following as “particular days of display:”

#1: New Year’s Day (January 1)

The flag is to be flown in commemoration of the new year.

#2: Inauguration Day (January 20, every 4 years)

The flag should be flown every four years when a presidential inauguration occurs, regardless of political affiliation.

#3: Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12)

Celebrate our 16th President’s birthday every year by flying the flag in honor of Honest Abe.

#4: Washington’s Birthday (3rd Monday in February)

You’ve got to display the stars and stripes each year to celebrate the birthday of George Washington. He’s the first President and the man who asked Betsy Ross to create the flag in the first place!

#5: Easter Sunday (date varies)

In 2019, Easter Sunday will fall on April 21. In 2020 and 2021, it will fall on April 12 and April 4 respectively.

#6: Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday in May)

You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for dear old mom, so fly your flag in honor of her!

#7: Armed Forces Day (3rd Saturday in May)

Display your flag on Armed Forces Day in tribute to the men and women who serve our great nation.

#8: Memorial Day (last Monday in May)

From sunrise until noon, the flag is to fly at half-staff to honor our fallen veterans. From noon until sunset, it is to be flown full-staff to honor those still with us.

#9: Flag Day (June 14)

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the American flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. This one is a no-brainer!

#10: Father’s Day (3rd Sunday in June)

You also wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for dad, so display the flag on this day too.

#11: Independence Day (July 4)

You can’t miss all of the American flags displayed on the 4th of July, commemorating the day we became free and independent states. Make sure your flag is front and center!

#12: Labor Day (1st Monday in September)

Fly your flag throughout Labor Day weekend – and especially Labor Day! – to celebrate the men and women who work hard to keep our country running.

#13: Constitution Day (September 17)

The United States Constitution is considered the supreme law of our country. Celebrate the day it was adopted by flying your flag.

#14: Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October)

In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue – and today, we fly our flags to celebrate the day he reached America!

#15: Navy Day (October 27)

Navy Day honors and celebrates the United States Navy, the largest naval warfare service branch in the entire world.

#16: Veterans Day (November 11)

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate and honor veterans, not merely mourn them. For this reason, the flag is not to be flown at half-staff. Citizens are, however, encouraged to fly POW/MIA and military branch flags in support of our veterans.

#17: Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November)

Before you eat yourself into a turkey coma, make sure your American flag is flying! 

#18: Christmas Day (December 25)

The only thing better than a white Christmas is a red, white, and blue Christmas. Make sure your flag is displayed on this major holiday.

 #19: State Holidays and Birthdays (date of admission)

The U.S. flag is to be flown in each state on its date of admission to the Union.

Other Important Days to Fly the American Flag

While the following dates did not make it into the U.S. Flag Code, they are still worth including:

#20: National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27)

July 27 is the anniversary of the treaty which ended the Korean War. From 2000 to 2003, during the treaty’s 50th anniversary years, the flag was flown at half-staff. Since then, it is to be flown at full staff on this day in special remembrance of Korean War veterans.

#21: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7)

In solemn remembrance of the “day that shall live in infamy,” the flag is to fly at half-staff from sunrise until sunset.

 #22: Election Days

While the code specifies flags are to be flown at polling places, election days are the perfect chance for everyone to show off their civic pride whether that’s by voting, flying the flag, or both!

The Correct Way to Display the American Flag

The Flag Code also provides a set of established guidelines for the care and display of the American flag. It covers everything from proper disposal of a damaged flag to the order and height at which flags should be flown. Do your best to honor the stars and stripes by following these American flag display rules:

  • Do not fly the flag in inclement weather or at night (unless properly illuminated).
  • Do not fly a damaged flag.
  • Do not fly any flags larger or higher than the American flag. They can be of an equal size.
  • Do not allow the flag to touch the ground.
  • Fly the flag at the peak of the staff unless circumstances require it be flown at half-staff.

These rules are the same whenever the flag is flown. A more comprehensive list can be found at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

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