What Information Can You Get From A License Plate

With over 6 million cars sold and 270 million registered in the US, it's easy to imagine hundreds of license plate lookups at any one moment. The bulk of these inquiries are by car owners looking for their registration and plates, but many are third parties.

You can use a license plate number to examine the history of a car you own or just purchased. If you own a used automobile, you can search its license plate number to learn more about it.

If you are a car owner or an individual wondering what information can you get from a license plate, this article is for you! You'll also learn the regulations of license plate lookup and how you can legally get this information.

Information You Get From a License Plate

Before proceeding with the information you can get from a license plate, it is critical to first learn the privacy laws for individual lookups and why you or someone would look up a license plate information.

Personal Lookups and Privacy Laws

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says it's prohibited for a regular person to check for license plate information. If you go to the DMV with someone's license plate number and ask for more information, you won't get any results. Only law enforcement authorities or other qualified persons can legally lookup license plates.

A vehicle's license plate number might provide some information about it. However, the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws may severely restrict this. Thus, no one can quickly get your or someone's essential information through a license plate number search. Even if the public sees your license plate number, your privacy remains safeguarded.

Each state has varied restrictions and availability for license plate data. Private investigators might find vital information about the car and its driver in some states, while others are more secretive, simply providing old documents.

What Information Can You Get From A License Plate

Common Reason for a License Plate Lookup

You must have the following reasons for looking for license plate information:


If you think the owner or driver of a car has done something wrong with you, you might want to locate them. For example, if a vehicle hits you and runs without looking at your condition, you can write the license plate number, find the driver's name, and file a lawsuit.

Car Hunting

You can also use a license plate to discover more about a vehicle's history. If you're purchasing a used car, you may know who owned it previously and how long.

Personal Reasons

People look up license plates for various reasons, whether personal or criminal. For example, you have fought someone at a red light and want to find them, or if someone parks in your spot, you might be angry and want to lash out.

So if you have valid reasons, what information can you get from a license plate?

You can usually discover a person's car's make, model, and year by reviewing the license plate data. Some internet databases promise more detailed information if you pay a fee.

The DMV has strict regulations on lookups. They may necessitate the requester for paperwork stating the information's intended purpose. In addition, they can only supply you with minimum details depending on the situation, including in cases involving DWI vs DUI incidents.

When a third party does a license plate search, it usually gives the following information about the vehicle:

  • Efficacy or engine size
  • Natural damage
  • Maintenance history
  • Mileage
  • Driver criminal history
  • Accident history
  • Repossession history

Also, police officers can perform lookups for cases involving civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral processes and insurance claims investigations. Even so, they cannot disclose or exchange data in such lookups.

If you are working with a cop, private investigator, or in a similar service, you can acquire the following information for a significant purpose:

Vehicle Description

If the license matches the car on record, you can usually receive a description of it.

Existing Owner's Name

Depending on your state, you can locate the current owner's name. Your source will determine the validity of this information.

Existing Owner's Address

If you can identify the current owner's name, you can probably find their address.

Other Information

Other information includes car insurance details, and when police view these plates, they may be able to determine stolen cars.

It is against the law to look for a license plate for no valid reason, and if you do, a private investigator will probably turn you down.

How To Get This Information

Each state's DMV handles license plates and car registration. Almost every state DMV has an online method for checking license plate numbers. A simple search reveals information on the brand and model of a car and its registration status; in most cases, this inquiry is complimentary, but certain states may charge a fee.

To get additional DMV data relating to driving licenses, users must request and pay a fee. There are many ways to do this:

  • Online DMV searches will yield the car owner's name, date of birth, and address. You may be required to sign a disclosure form acknowledging that your search request may be made public, often charging fair fees.
  • You can also request license plate lookup from information brokers, which is more expensive than through the DMV, but they often incorporate public records and consumer database information.
  • Another option is to seek assistance from private investigators, but they charge more than information brokers. However, their licensing checks usually incorporate third-party sources, social media, consumer databases, and relationships.

Working with a private investigator or other special teams can provide more accurate information. They are a much more reliable approach to a license plate search. You'll receive a lot more professional experience if you pay for it.


Knowing how license plate numbers and lookups work can help if you ever need to find a car. Remember that only authorized personnel can check someone's more-detailed license plate information. You should always get legal advice and obey the regulations that govern it if you want this information.

You also don't have to worry about outsiders checking your license plate number. You can rest comfortably knowing that the law is on your side and that nothing illegal is necessary to secure your information.