Can You Look Up License Plates (Online & Offline)

Can You Look Up License Plates

Do you know if you can look up license plates? Well, you are at the perfect place to find the answer to such a question.

There are times when you may need to know who was behind a certain license plate. For example, if you have been involved in an accident, or if you are planning on purchasing a vehicle and you aren’t 100% sure whether the claimed owner is the real owner.

Because of this, you may start to have questions about whether you can look up vehicle license plates. On this page, we are going to tell you everything that you really need to know.

Do bear in mind that this information applies strictly to the United States. In most countries, it is illegal to look up license plates without good cause e.g. in the United Kingdom.

Can You Look Up License Plates?

Unlike other countries, the United States does not have any laws which prohibit looking up license plate information. You will be surprised at the wealth of information that you are able to gain from a quick license plate lookup too.

It isn’t just going to be related to the history of that vehicle, but you may be able to get a ton of information about the legal owner of the vehicle too, including their criminal record.

You are able to look up license plate numbers both online and offline. We are going to walk you through how you are able to do both.

Once again, we do want to point out that what we discuss here will only apply to the United States.

There will be other rules in place where you live. As mentioned, in the United Kingdom, it is 100% illegal to look up who owns a license plate unless you have a good reason to do so.

Can You Look Up License Plates Online?

If you carry out a quick Google search of how to find license plates online, we have no doubt that you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of different sites that claim that they can look up the information for you. Most of them can.

Although you do need to remember that this is an area that does seem to attract quite a few scams, so you will want to be 100% sure that a site is legit before you take the plunge. Although, we know that you are sensible. You probably already know how to spot the good sites and avoid the awful ones, right?

Most of these websites will allow you to look up a license plate 100% free of charge. You just tap in the license plate number, and it will throw as much information at you as possible. All of this information will be sourced from public databases.

Of course, the type of information that you see may vary depending on the state that you live in, as well as the databases that the particular site has access to.

It probably won’t take more than a quick Google search, you will be introduced to dozens and dozens of different websites that can help you to find license plates online.

You don’t need us to help you out there. Just make sure that you avoid any website that charges you for this service.

There are too many free websites out there that do the same job, so you don’t really need to bother with the paid sites.

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Can You Look Up License Plates Offline?

You can. Although, the process is going to be a lot lengthier, so most people avoid it.

If you want to look up a license plate offline, then you are going to need to take a trip to your local DMV (see, we told you it is going to be a hassle!).

Here, you will need to hand up the license plate details, and they will tell you everything that you need to know.

It is worth pointing out at this point that if you look up a license plate offline, you are going to have access to less information than if you searched online. This is because the DMV is only going to give you details about the information that they hold.

They are not going to be able to tell you details of things that you may find in other databases.

This means that if you want to find out more about a person that owns a vehicle, it is probably going to be best to use one of the free searches online instead. You will get a whole lot more information like that.

How EASY It Is To Steal Your Info from a License Plate >> Check out the video below:

What Information Can You Get From a License Plate Lookup?

This will be dependent on where you look. You may need to use multiple services if you want access to the most amount of information.

You will be able to get information about both the vehicle and the driver. This includes the following:

Vehicle Information

You may be able to obtain details of any accidents that may have happened in that vehicle. You may also be able to get a bit of information on whether the vehicle has been repossessed in the past.

Depending on the service that you use, you may be able to get access to the maintenance history and the mileage of the vehicle.

Some sites may even tell you the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, but this is going to be based on the model number. That isn’t the information that is pulled from a database.

Driver Details

You will be able to find a whole lot of information about the driver. Some of this information can even be obtained from the DMV, but chances are that you will need to use multiple databases to access this information.

Some of the information you can gain includes:

  • Name and address of the owner
  • Details about the vehicle title.
  • Criminal history. This includes DUIs, felonies, sex crimes, and misdemeanors. 
  • Car crashes
  • Whether their driver’s license has been suspended.
  • Record of any times they have been in prison.

As we said, hunt around if you want access to more information than this. 

In some cases, you may even be able to find out details on any other vehicles that a person owns, or has owned in the past.

Although, finding out this information will be dependent on whether the vehicle is registered to exactly the same name and address.

Sometimes, it isn’t. Most multi-car families have vehicles registered to different family members. This information is not linked.

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What Good Reasons Are There For Looking Up a License Plate?

In the United States, you do not have to give any information about why you need information about a license plate or a driver.

However, some of the most common reasons for looking up a license plate include:

  • Looking for a vehicle involved in a hit and run.
  • Insurance purposes
  • Finding out who owns abandoned vehicles
  • Check the true ownership of a vehicle, particularly if you want to make a purchase.
  • Look up the criminal history of somebody that you are dating (yes, people do this)

As we said, no need to give any reasons. You probably have your own ideas as to why you need to look up the information anyway. It may differ from what we have written here.

Can The Police Look Up Your License Plate?

Yes. The police are going to be able to run your plates from inside of their vehicle. However, they probably won’t have access to the same sort of information that you have if you search online.

They tend to only have information related to vehicle ownership and whether you have any outstanding warrants.

The police are probably not going to run your license plate through their system unless they have a very good reason to do so.

Can You Use a VIN To Look Up Vehicle Information?

If you don’t have access to the license plate number, then you may be able to look up the information that you need using the vehicle identification number (VIN).

You can use this information online (with some websites), or you can take it to the DMV. Do bear in mind that not all online websites will allow you to search using the VIN.

For the most part, the information that you get when you search using the VIN will be the same as if you searched using the license plate number.

In fact, you will even be able to find out the license plate number using this information.


You can look up license plates both online and offline. If you want to search for information online, then you will be able to find a multitude of different websites.

Many of these sites are completely free to use, and you will be able to find a wealth of information about both the owner of the vehicle, as well as the vehicle itself.

If you want to find information offline, then you will need to take a trip to the DMV. They will be able to provide you with the information right away, but you will probably need to queue up for a while.



Jeff is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Reatta. Jeff has been creating written and video content about transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used for more than 18 years. Jeff is based in Boulder, Colorado.

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