How to Check Car Plate Numbers

A license plate number is both a matter of public record and private information. It is no longer legal for government agencies, like the Department of Motor Vehicles, to list personal information publicly. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act was passed in 1994 to protect drivers' personal information based on license plate numbers. However, there are still some ways to learn about the car make, model and registration using government services. You can also hire a service to find out personal information. Any inquiry into license plate numbers is likely to cost at least a small fee. Learn how to check car plate numbers.


  1. Image titled Check Car Plate Numbers Step 1
    Identify the state where the car is licensed. To do the most basic type of search, you will need to search for the state's DMV website online. Find the "Plate Inquiry," or Request for Record Information, web page or call your local DMV to learn how you can fill out a form to access some license plate information.
    • Pay the DMV fee for license plate inquiries and type or write in the license plate number. You can find the registration date, the renewal date, the vehicle make and the vehicle year. You will not be able to access personal information like names and social security numbers.
  2. Image titled Check Car Plate Numbers Step 2
    Subscribe to an online information search website. If you want to access more personal information, but you want to do the investigation yourself, then this is your next option. These services are also referred to as "online information brokers."
    • Services, like docusearch, charge $15 to $50 per month for access to online information that has been gathered by researchers and information companies. You can save money if you research license information regularly by choosing a subscription service.
    • In almost all cases, the quality of the information you get is not guaranteed. You could end up with a first name, last name, phone number, address or any combination of personal information, large and small.
  3. Image titled Check Car Plate Numbers Step 3
    Hire a private detective. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act allows private detectives to use databases that track license plates. Licensed private detectives may charge between $100 and $1,000 for this service, but they are more likely to get results.
    • Hiring a private detective can be a costly option, but it is usually a 1-time fee. Ask the detective to guarantee the information you desire when you agree to a fee.
  4. Image titled Check Car Plate Numbers Step 4
    Another option is to hire a certified information broker. Similar to the services held at online agencies, these brokers are researchers that can yield results using public records and other services for a fee. Check online listings and the local phone book for this service.

Things You'll Need

  • License plate number
  • State information
  • $15 to $1,000
  • Online information broker
  • Private detective
  • Certified information broker

Article Info

Categories: Cars