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How to Look Up License Plate Numbers

bunch of different car plates

People across the nation perform license plate number searches every day. Some of the reasons for searching for information linked to a license plate number include finding out the identity of a hit-and-run driver or a reckless driver, or even if you are suspicious of a vehicle you keep seeing in your neighborhood. While there is a limit to what you can find out through sites online due to privacy issues, you can pay a service or private investigator to find out additional information for you.

Method 1 of 3: Perform a basic search

Materials Needed

  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • License plate number
  • Paper and pencil

Doing a basic search yourself online can help you glean a little bit of information associated with a license plate number. Using a site, such as your state DMV, allows you to find out the date the vehicle was registered, the vehicle make, and the vehicle model year. Personal information, however, is protected due to federal laws.

Step 1: Check your DMV. Depending on the state, the DMV might offer information about license plate number inquiries for a fee. In cases where they do, go to the DMV website for your state and look for the link titled Plate Inquiry, Request for Record Information, or something similar.

Step 2: Enter plate number. Once in the appropriate area of the DMV website, enter the license plate number into the search field. You can then find out information mainly associated with the vehicle attached to the license plate. You can't, however, find out personal information, such as the name of the person associated with the vehicle or their address.

screenshot of autocheck website

Step 3: Search online. Another basic car plate search option includes going to various online search site. There is always a fee associated with such a search, but they can garner more information than a DMV search will reveal. Some of the available search sites include AutoCheck,, and

  • Warning: When using an online search company, only use reputable services. Services that promise you instant results usually do not have up-to-date information. A sure sign of trustworthiness includes firms that states their fees up front and tell you how long it should take to find the information you seek.

Method 2 of 3: Hire a certified information broker

Materials Needed

  • Cell phone
  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • License plate number
  • Paper and pencil

Another option to find out information associated with a license plate number is to use the services of a license plate lookup company. While similar to online search sites, a lookup company offers a more comprehensive service and information that is actually researched. And while a license plate lookup company does not offer instant results, the information given to you will be the correct information associated with that plate number.

Step 1: Make a list of lookup companies. Look up a list of the various license plate lookup companies online or through your local phonebook yellow pages. One such company is Docusearch. Make sure to check any reviews available to try to determine if a specific company is reputable or not.

docusearch tennessee

Step 2: Contact each lookup company. Approach the license plate lookup company online through their website contact form or over the phone. Make sure you understand the fees they charge and the length of time it might take to find the information before agreeing to their services.

Step 3: Provide the plate number. Give them the license plate number and wait. When the company has the information, they will contact you.

Method 3 of 3: Hire a private detective

Materials Needed

  • Cell phone
  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • License plate number
  • Paper and pencil

A third option is to hire a private detective to find the information for you. Fortunately, the Driver's Privacy Protection Act gives private detectives the ability to access the database in the various states that keep track of license plate numbers and those who own the vehicles wo which they are attached. While this method is the most expensive of the three, you are guaranteed the best results.

  • Tip: Make sure to ask the private detective to guarantee the information they give you before you pay.

private investigator reviews

Step 1: Make a list. Find a list of local private detectives, either through your local phonebook or online. Make sure to check any reviews to see what others have experienced when using the private detective's services.

Step 2: Contact each service. Contact the private detective service by phone or over the Internet. Tell them what information you need and discuss the fees associated with the search, along with the expected time frame to complete the search.

Step 3: Provide the plate number. Give them the license plate number for the vehicle in question and then wait for them to contact you. Information lookups are relatively easy and should not take too long to perform, so the search should be relatively quick.

By using a service, or even looking up the information yourself, you can find out a variety of information associated with a license plate number. This way, you can find out what you need to know when looking for a driver associated with a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run, reckless driving incident, or just a suspicious vehicle you've noticed in your neighborhood.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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