In many pictures of cars online like in classified ads or car forums, you may have noticed that the owner will often blur or obscure their license plate in the photo. But is this really necessary? What can someone actually do with your license plate number?
We’ll answer some of the most common questions we get about the topic.
If you need to run a license plate or VIN yourself, check out some of our free resources:
Can someone else run your license plate?
Technically, yes, you can run another person’s license plate.
However, the information someone can get from a license plate number will vary depending on the reason for the request.
Anyone can obtain basic, non-identifying information from a license plate number.
For more sensitive information like your name or address, the reason for the request will need to meet the requirements of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and other state and federal privacy laws.
If you need to report a crime or public safety concern, you should report the license plate number to the authorities rather than trying to look it up yourself. As the latter could be a crime.
What can someone do with your license plate number?
Like a VIN number, a license plate number contains some basic information about your vehicle, including:
- The car’s year, make, and model.
- The type and style of vehicle.
- Engine and transmission details.
- The VIN.
- The color.
- Theft, damage, and auction records.
- Sales history.
- Accident details and insurance claims.
- General owner history.
Information like this is not protected by privacy laws, but will also not allow anyone to identify or find you. In other words, your identity is not at risk when someone runs a basic license plate lookup or VIN report on your vehicle.
However, your license plate number is tied to your name, address, and other details. This information can only be accessed for legitimate purposes.
In order to access this type of information, the person requesting it will need to make a request through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) vehicle records request department.
These requests can typically only be made for legitimate purposes by legitimate parties, such as:
- Insurance companies investigate claims.
- Police conducting an investigation.
- Courts requesting information.
- Employers or businesses verifying information.
You can learn more about how to do a DMV license plate lookup here.
Can you find someone by their license plate number?
Yes, and no. Technically, a license plate number is tied to your personal information including your name, address, and vehicle registration status.
However, this information can not be accessed by just anybody.
Personal information from a license plate can only be retrieved for official purposes that meet the requirements of certain state and federal privacy protection laws.
Do you need to hide your license plate number?
While many people do blur out their license plates in pictures online, it’s not really necessary.
Your personal information is protected, and it is not possible to look up a license plate to get that information for anything but official reasons.