How to Look Up a License Plate Number

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Like a vehicle identification number (VIN), a license plate contains key information about every individual car, truck, motorcycle, and other vehicle on the road. 

License plates are used to identify the vehicle and its registered owners in order to confirm driving privileges, track registration fees, validate parking permits, and stay compliant with the law. 

On this page, we’ll cover how you can look up information about a vehicle and its owners using the license plate number. 

How to Look Up a License Plate Number

Looking up a license plate number is easy, and you can do it for free at!

How to lookup a license plate:

  1. Visit and go to the License Plate Lookup tool.
  2. Enter the license plate number. 
  3. Select the state where the vehicle is registered. 
  4. Hit search and get the results. 

This free license plate number provides a variety of useful data when you’re researching a particular vehicle. 

With a license plate lookup, you’ll be able to find:

  • The car’s year, make, and model. 
  • The type and style of vehicle. 
  • Engine and transmission details. 
  • The VIN. 
  • The color.  

From there, you can get more information by decoding the VIN. You can use the VIN to find information including:

  • Theft, damage, and auction records. 
  • Sales history. 
  • Accident details and insurance claims. 
  • Owner history. 

If you’re looking for more specific information about the registered owner of a particular vehicle, you’ll need to make a license plate history request through the state DMV. 

DMV License Plate Lookup

Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the equivalent agency keeps records on each and every driver, vehicle, and license plate. 

If you want to look up your own vehicle history records through the DMV, you can typically do so online for a small fee. 

If you want to do a DMV license plate lookup for someone else’s vehicle, you’ll need to make sure your request is qualified. 

When you want to look up a license plate because another driver has driven dangerously or committed a crime, you should report it to your local law enforcement agency. 

If you need to report a parking violation, you should contact the agency or organization in charge of the parking spot/area in question. 

Are license plates public record?

While basic license plate information is public record, personal information about the registered owner including their name, birth date, and residential address are protected by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and other state and federal laws. 

Looking up certain types of information about someone else’s vehicle and license plate is restricted to authorized personnel and for qualified reasons only. 

Legal Reasons for Looking Up Someone Elses’ License Plate Number

It is legal for anyone to run a license plate to obtain public records and publicly available information. 

However, additional details and identifiable information about the plate’s owner requires a permissible reason for the request. 

The types of requests can return information about:

  • The current owner’s name, address, and vehicle registration details and status. 
  • The owner of the vehicle for a specific date. 
  • The full ownership history of a vehicle. 

When you fill out a request for someone else’s license plate number, you’ll need to provide:

  • The license plate number and/or VIN. 
  • Your name, address, and contact information. 
  • The reason for your request. 
  • Payment for the records lookup. 

Permissible uses for lookup up another person’s license plate include:

  • Reasons related to motor vehicle theft or driver safety. 
  • Legitimate business reasons to verify information, prevent fraud, pursue legal action, or recover debt. 
  • Civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceedings and investigations. 
  • Insurance purposes for claims, investigations, and underwriting. 
  • Commercial driver purposes. 

Examples of such uses include:

  • Government agency lookups. 
  • Law enforcement lookups. 
  • Legal cases. 
  • Towing and repossession purposes. 
  • Private investigations. 
  • Employee records. 
  • Toll and parking facilities. 

If you are unsure about the nature of your license plate lookup, you should contact your state’s DMV.