Reverse License Plate Lookup

Where Can You Go to Do a Reverse License Plate Lookup?

Thanks to the internet, you can access a wealth of information from the comfort of home. Countless websites allow you to perform reverse telephone number searches, reverse street address searches and searches for all kinds of other information. What about license plate numbers? Is there any way to quickly perform a reverse license plate lookup online? Find out everything that you need to know about reverse license plate searches, including when and why they are necessary, how much they cost and where to obtain them.

The Law Regarding License Plate Information:

There’s a lot of confusion out there about whether or not you can legally perform a reverse search on a license plate. Law enforcement officers and other officials are authorized to do so. Due to privacy concerns, however, federal law prohibits the release of many types of personally identifiable information from license plate records. Passed in 1994, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act, or DPPA, was largely enacted to prevent stalking and other crimes. Prior to the passage of this law, it was fairly easy for someone to search a license plate number to get a person’s name and street address.

When are Reverse License Plate Searches Necessary?

People perform reverse license plate searches for many reasons, including:

  • To Obtain Vehicle Information – When a VIN isn’t immediately available, but a license plate number is, the plate number may be used to obtain information about the vehicle in question. This method is less reliable than using a VIN, however, as license plates can easily be moved from vehicle to vehicle.
  • To Verify Information – People sometimes perform searches on their own license plate numbers to verify that the attached information is correct.
  • When Buying a Car – The easiest way to obtain a vehicle history report for a used car is by submitting its VIN to the appropriate organization. However, the license plate number can sometimes be used instead.
  • To Solve a Crime – The least pleasant reason to need to perform a reverse license plate search is when you are trying to find the identity of someone who committed a crime. If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident, for instance, but managed to obtain the other party’s license plate number, you may be able to look it up to figure out who they are. Of course, if the car is stolen, this won’t do you much good.

The above are legitimate reasons for performing a reverse license plate number search. However, people sometimes want to do so for sketchy reasons, which is exactly why federal law imposes strict rules about when such information can be released. Without such laws on the book, any driver could jot down your plate number and look it up to obtain your name, address and other personal information.

What Information Can You Learn from a Reverse License Plate Lookup?

The information that you can obtain from a reverse license plate search depends on various factors. Due to privacy laws, and individual state laws, the information obtainable from another person’s plate number may only be the make, model and year of the vehicle. Sometimes, you can also obtain title information from such a search, including any liens that are currently held on the vehicle. In some cases, you may be able to find the registered owner of a license plate through an online search. If you have a legitimate reason to search for a license plate owner, and you cannot find the information online, then your best bet is to go through official channels. Law enforcement, DMV employees and other officials always have full access to this information through such searches, including the registered owner’s full name, address and date of birth.

Options for Performing a Reverse License Plate Search

So, if you have a license plate number and want to know more, what can you do? A few options for doing a reverse license plate lookup include:

  • DMV – While the DMV can perform a reverse search based off of a license plate number, the agency will only give you information from such a search if you have a verifiable reason for seeking it. Individual states have different rules regarding this, so check with your local DMV to learn more.
  • Police – Local and state police can quickly perform reverse license plate searches. Officers even do so while on the road. However, police officers are technically not allowed to look up license plate information for everyday people. If you know someone who works in law enforcement, they may be able to help you, but it can be risky. If you have a legitimate reason to perform a search, such as investigating a hit-and-run accident, the police may be able to assist you.
  • Public Records – People often mistakenly believe that license plate information is official public record. However, because such information can easily be used for underhanded reasons, more protections are in place to keep it confidential. Many public records websites claim that they can perform such searches. You may be able to find the information you are looking for via these websites, but the information is not as reliable as going through official channels.
  • Online – Doing reverse license plate searches online is certainly convenient. However, you need to have a legitimate reason to view owner information, and the information you may find online is not as reliable as the information that you could find going through official channels such as the DMV or the police.

How Much Does it Cost?

Most state DMVs charge nominal fees for pulling up information about a license plate. If you have a legitimate reason to have the police do it, they shouldn’t charge you for it. Websites that offer reverse plate searches usually charge relatively small fees as well, and you can always get a refund if your search does not return the results that you are looking for. Remember, the law requires that you have a legitimate reason to obtain someone’s name and address from a license plate search.

The Bottom Line on Doing Reverse License Plate Lookups

For all intents and purposes, the most reliable data from license plates comes from official channels such as the DMV or the police. Online license plate data sources will sometimes have this information as well, and it is important that you have a valid reason for gaining access to this information.

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