Can you find the license plate owner’s information if you have a license plate number? Is it legal to look up a license plate owner? Don’t worry, this post will give you the answer.
Related search: Find out who owns a car anonymously by VIN.
Is it legal to search for a license plate owner?
No, it’s illegal to look up a license plate owner in the US without proper authorization. The DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act) strictly prohibits accessing personal information except for some specific lawful purposes. Privacy law safeguards individual data, preventing unauthorized access to personal details like names or addresses. As an ordinary citizen, you don’t have the right to look up the license plate owner’s personal information. Unauthorized access to identify the owner’s name, address, contact info, or more violates privacy laws and can lead to legal consequences, including fines or criminal charges.
While it’s illegal to search for a license plate number, it’s not impossible. Reports indicate that the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles was selling personal information like names, dates of birth, addresses, license plate numbers, etc. for profit1, allowing unauthorized access to individuals’ data to be possible. Moreover, there are concerns about spammers and scammers using license plate numbers to access people’s personal information, leading to potential scams. The ongoing debate of ‘displaying or not displaying license plates’ on car forums2 never ends. It remains a personal choice, but everyone should be aware of the potential risks involved.
Call the police
In most cases, the urgency to find the owner via license plate stems from concerns, fear, or potential danger.
For instance, one user encountered a hit-and-run driver and reported the incident to the police. Despite this, they sought additional ways to find the driver through the license plate number.3 Similarly, another individual had strangers behaving oddly at their door and, after reporting the incident to the police, sought further information about the strangers out of concern for their safety.4
When encountering or witnessing hit-and-runs, crimes, or other suspicious events, it’s crucial to report the incident along with the license plate number to the police. Even if unsure about the correctness of the information, the police are equipped to handle such investigations. Citizens are not permitted to conduct investigations themselves.
If you really want to identify the owner but can’t obtain the information from the police, it’s crucial to recognize that websites claiming to look up license plate owners may be scams or clickbait in online searches, as revealing the owner’s information about a vehicle is illegal. Therefore, you need to find other ways independently. For example, if a user is determined to identify the owner of a car that blocked them for 3 hours but couldn’t obtain it from the police, they could seek clues by communicating with the parking lot manager or openly ask coworkers for assistance.5
What information can license plate number lookup give?
When you run an online license plate search, you can get the information related to the vehicle:
- Car pics
- Vehicle specifications
- Vehicle accidents records
- Recalls and warranties
- Market value
- Fuel efficiency
- Indicators of potential auto fraud and theft
How to search vehicle history by license plate
1. Contact DMV
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides information related to license plates. Go to the DMV’s official website for your state and search for the license plate. If the DMV doesn’t offer this function, you can call or go to the DMV office and ask the staff directly. They can guide you on where to find the information you’re seeking and what documents you need to provide for the request.
But the service may come at a fee. And DMV doesn’t provide personal information such as the name, phone number, or address of the owner of the vehicle.
If this method doesn’t meet your needs, you can turn to third-party services for help. There are reputable third-party services that provide vehicle history reports, VIN lookups, or specific information about a vehicle’s title, accidents, recalls, etc.
2. Search the license plate on Bumper
Many websites claim to offer free license plate lookup services. However, these free services often provide inaccurate information, and users frequently complain about hidden fees.6 So why not choose a reputable paid vehicle lookup service? You’ll receive comprehensive reports containing accurate data, records, and images of the vehicle, instilling confidence in your decision-making process.
Bumper is the one that is dedicated to enhancing the car owning, buying, and selling experience while keeping it affordable. As an approved NMVTIS Data Provider, Bumper conducts thousands of vehicle history reports weekly. They access vehicle data from trusted sources such as NMVTIS, JD Power, and NHTSA, among others. Bumper offers top-notch service and convenient searches. You can enjoy reports of the same quality as leading competitors but at a lower price point.
1) Go to Bumper.
2) Click SEARCH BY LICENSE PLATE, then enter the License Plate and select the State. Click SEARCH.
3) Bumper will search on its database and give you a report that contains the information you need.
3. Look up license plate on EpicVIN
EpicVIN is one of the best-known vehicle search tools. With a robust database, it not only allows you to track down the vehicle owner by a license plate number but also reveals loads of essential information about a vehicle, such as:
- Owner details
- Accidents and salvage records
- Vehicle specifications
- Ownership costs
- Sale listings
- Market value
- Theft records
- Recalls and warranties
1) Go to the official EpicVIN website.
2) Select by US License Plate, enter the number and click Check.
3) Wait until the results load up and you’ll see different sections of records. Click each section to get more detailed information.
In what situation people tend to look up license plate information
People might look up license plate information in various situations, including:
- Suspicious activity
- Parking Issues
- Safety Concerns
- Used car purchase
No matter in what situation, it’s illegal to access personal information associated with a license plate number without proper authorization. If it’s a safety concern, you’d better call the police. It’s important to be careful and follow the law when dealing with license plate details.
Looking up a license plate owner is illegal, if you encounter an accident, turn to the police for help. But you can run a license plate search before buying a second-hand car. Knowing a vehicle history would help you know better about the car and get a good deal.
- Kara Kenney. (2023, December 19). BMV reveals how it spends millions generated from selling your personal information. WRTV. https://www.wrtv.com/news/wrtv-investigates/bmv-reveals-how-it-spends-millions-generated-from-selling-your-personal-information ↩︎
- Informal Lounge, Introductions, Gernal Discussion [ELDORADO2K]. (2024, January 7). To display or not display license plates on a car forum. [Online Forum Post]. Cadillacforums. https://www.cadillacforums.com/threads/to-display-or-not-display-license-plates-on-a-car-forum.1140100/ ↩︎
- General [eKretz]. (2017, April 23). OT: Any of you guys that can or know how to run a license plate lookup? [Online Forum Post]. Practical Machinist. https://www.practicalmachinist.com/forum/threads/ot-any-of-you-guys-that-can-or-know-how-to-run-a-license-plate-lookup.334337/ ↩︎
- Off Topic Lounge [TheBean]. (2016, May 18). License plate search [Online Forum Post]. SurvivalistBoards. https://www.survivalistboards.com/threads/license-plate-search.505505/ ↩︎
- Computer Questions [Jeffery]. (2018, January 25). How To Find Owner of a Vehicle by License Plate# ? [Online Forum Post]. Homesteading Today. https://www.homesteadingtoday.com/threads/how-to-find-owner-of-a-vehicle-by-license-plate.568052/ ↩︎
- Open Hunting Discussion [Revolutionary Redneck]. (2022, June 29). Is there a free license plate search. [Online Forum Post]. Texas Hunting Forum. https://texashuntingforum.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/8638804/is-there-a-free-license-plate-search ↩︎