How Can I Track a License Plate Number?

by Stephen LilleyUpdated July 06, 2023

You can learn many things from a vehicle's license plate number, including vehicle identification number (VIN), accident history, and vehicle record. You can even retrieve owner information and driver’s license from a license plate search, with the disclaimer that this information requires special permission under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). This information is used by a number of parties, including government agencies, insurance companies, and even citizens purchasing a used car.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns the vehicle registration and plate numbers to the vehicle's owner, which can be useful if you are trying to find someone. Always check with your local DMV regarding regulations on license plate tracking. While state DMV’s will occasionally provide this service for you, you can track a car owner’s license plate number several other ways, from doing it online yourself to contacting law enforcement.


A number of websites offer license plate lookup services. These online services charge a fee for each search, and the results aren't necessarily guaranteed. You enter the number plate or decal information, and the site will display whatever information is in its database about the vehicle and driver, such as VIN number, vehicle title, or available public records.

Private Investigators

One easy way to track a license plate number is to hire a private investigator, who will have access to resources that you don't. Private investigators will charge a fee for their work, but tracking down a license plate number usually can be done relatively quickly. When contacting a private investigator, try to provide information on any stickers, placards, or license plate designs. Check the Web or the phone book to find an investigator in your area.


If you are trying to track a license plate number because you believe the vehicle was involved in a crime, including a hit-and-run accident, call police and file a report. Police will perform a license plate check and investigate.

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