How to Check a Plate Number on a Car

by Peter Drea

Sometimes circumstances may compel you to check the plate number of a car that isn't yours. A few of these circumstances may include:

  1. Your car was involved in an accident, but the other party fled the scene. If you’re able to capture the other driver's plate number, you can check his information to file an insurance claim.

  2. A family member works far away and has not returned home for years. You may want to trace her by checking the license plate number she last had.

  3. You see a car for sale, but since the sign is not large enough to view the contact details as you drive by, you may need to trace the seller by checking the car’s license plate number.

  4. Somebody persistently speeds by your home and you want him to desist for the safety of your children or property. Checking his plate number can help you obtain his contact or address information.


In some states, vehicle registration information is private and protected by the law, and you need to have genuine reasons why you want to check the plate number.

Check with State’s Motor Vehicles Agency

Depending on the reason why you want to check the plate number of a car, the state's motor vehicles agency can be a good resource. In most cases, the motor vehicles agency can:

  • provide the name of the owners, including lien holders, but will not disclose contact and address information.
  • call the owner for you, especially if the reason is a hit-and-run accident and you want to file an insurance claim.


Start the search with the state's motor vehicles agency where you first encountered the plate number of the car you want to check. Most likely, the owner of the car works or has her car registered in that state.

Use Third-Party Websites

Some third-party websites can be helpful when you want to find out about the owner of a vehicle through his plate number information. You just need to follow a simple procedure:

Identify and screen the websites.

Typing the words "license plate lookup websites" into your browser bring up several databases that provide license plate lookup services -- such as Veripsy, License Plate Search and DMV.govtFiles. The difficulty is in determining which database is legitimate and safe to use. To screen the websites yourself:

  • Use the "Contact Us" link in the homepage of the website. If you find the messaging system is automated, the phone number not in service or that no one answers your calls during business hours, it may mean that the website is not operational or is not updated regularly.
  • Get a Google safe-browsing report of the website you want to screen. In the address bar, type the URL:  followed by the website address and press "Enter. "The report opens in a new tab and will tell you if a site is suspicious. 
  • Check if the website is Secure Sockets Layer secured. For the security of your personal and credit card information during checkout, the website should have a Web address starting with "https" instead of "http."

Evaluate pricing and payment options.

Consider affordability and convenience of payment methods allowed by the different websites.

  • At the time of publication, the fee for checking a plate number averages $30. 

  • The checking fee depends on the report access option you select -- such as for one month or one week, or for single-report access.

  • Most websites require you to pay using your credit or debit card information.

Compare reports.

The report contents vary depending on the websites where you conduct the search. The more comprehensive a report is, the higher the cost will be.


Always pay for content you intend to use. So, check for the website that has a small charge for the lookup service but provides the content you need -- such as current address, name and phone number of the owner.

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