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Can You Find Someone by Their License Plate Number in 2023?

Wondering if it‘s really possible to identify a complete stranger with some basic info like a license plate number? The short answer – yes, you can successfully track down someone‘s identity and home address starting with just their vehicle‘s plate number.

In this detailed guide, we‘ll explore the ins and outs of license plate lookups in 2023. Read on to learn the techniques you can leverage to turn a plate number into actionable information about that car‘s owner.

Why Would You Want To Find Someone From Their Plate Number?

Before jumping into the how-to, it helps to understand why you might need to identify a person based on their license plate in the first place.

Here are some of the most common scenarios that prompt people to perform plate searches:

  • Insurance Investigations for Accidents/Hit-and-Runs: After a collision, hit-and-run, or parking lot fender bender, victims rely on license plate IDs to file police reports and claims. In 2017 alone, over 1.7 million hit-and-run accidents occurred, leaving many drivers turning to plate lookups to seek compensation.
  • Recovering Stolen Vehicles: Car thefts sadly still occur at an alarming rate, with over 800,000 vehicles stolen per year in the U.S. according to FBI statistics. Accessing registration data tied to license plates allows both owners and law enforcement to track down missing vehicles.
  • Collecting Unpaid Fines: Whether it‘s parking tickets or automated traffic camera violations, plates provide a way for authorities to hold offenders accountable. A license plate search can even reveal a scofflaw with over 500 unpaid tickets!
  • Reconnecting with Lost Contacts: Ever lose touch with an old friend at some point? You may still recall their car‘s plate number or spot the familiar car around town. A search can reveal up-to-date contact information to reconnect.
  • Reporting Suspicious Activity: Witness some concerning road rage or hazardous behavior from a passing vehicle? Jotting down the plate number provides helpful identifying details during a police report.
  • Supporting Legal Proceedings: Attorneys frequently leverage plate lookups to locate witnesses, defendants, and other parties involved in ongoing cases.

Now that you know the "why", let‘s get into the "how" – the methods available to turn a plate into the owner‘s personal information.

Overview of Methods for Tracing Plate Numbers to People

When you need to put a name and face to a passing car‘s plate, here are your options:

Paid Online Lookup Services

For everyday individuals, the most efficient route is using a paid online service like BeenVerified or TruthFinder that specializes in license plate and vehicle history lookups. The advantage is convenience – with a few clicks, you can pull a detailed report on both the car and driver. BeenVerified, for example, taps into a database of over 190 million VINs and plates to uncover information like:

  • Owner‘s name, age, address, and contact info – Goes beyond the car to provide actionable details like phone numbers to get in touch with the owner directly.
  • Accident and damage history – Look for recent collisions or existing damage issues that may affect safety.
  • Market value data – See the current value of the car based on make, model, year, and features.
  • Sale listing history – Sold multiple times? A vehicle history can expose odometer rollbacks, flood damage, and other sale hiccups.
  • Specifications – Engine size, fuel economy, dimensions, and other technical specs.
  • Open recalls – Find out if any outstanding safety recalls exist that require urgent attention from a dealership.
  • Registered location history – Helps identify primary locations the vehicle has been registered.

Paid searches typically cost $40-$60 to unlock the full history but can provide results in mere seconds once entering the plate number and state. For a comprehensive overview, they offer immense value.

Contacting the DMV

Your local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office keeps track of registered vehicles along with some tied details. You can directly request they perform a license plate search on your behalf, which may reveal:

  • Vehicle specifications like make, model, year, VIN, etc.
  • Registration status, issue date, and renewal dates
  • Brand history – salvage title, rebuilt status, etc.
  • Reported mileage at last transfer

However, given privacy laws, the DMV faces strict limits on sharing personal owner information like names, phone numbers, and addresses. You‘ll typically only receive vehicle data. Processing searches also often takes 1-2 weeks once submitted, making it less ideal for urgent needs.

Fees range by state but expect to pay at least $10-$15 for a DMV plate search, plus you may need to visit an office in-person depending on jurisdiction rules.

Public Records

Seeking a free way to gather intel from a plate number? Public records provide a starting point, with resources like:

  • State or county registrar databases
  • Property tax records
  • Voter registration data
  • Business registration directories

By cross-referencing the plate number with various records, you may uncover an owner‘s name and contact information. However, public access to DMV and motor vehicle records varies significantly by state depending on local privacy statutes. Some states restrict highly sensitive info like social security numbers that could enable identity theft if compromised.

Public record searches also demand significantly more time and effort to dig through various databases versus a single paid search. Scope availability in your specific area before pursuing this route.

Hiring a Private Investigator

For more complex or highly sensitive searches, you may enlist the services of a private investigator. Their access to premium databases beyond conventional public records coupled with trained investigative expertise allows them to take on challenging cases like finding someone only known by a partial plate number and vague physical description.

However, private investigators tend to charge over $60/hr for services – an expensive endeavor compared to online options. Their services are likely overkill for straightforward plate lookups where cost is a concern. But when all else fails and police assistance isn‘t viable, private investigators offer a last-ditch option to track down an owner‘s whereabouts and identity.

Pros and Cons of Methods

Paid ServicesFast, convenient, comprehensiveCosts money – averages $40-$60 per search
DMV SearchOfficial government records1-2 week delays, limited personal details, fees
Public RecordsTotally free searchesSlower, inconsistently available data, fragmented
Private InvestigatorsSophisticated expertise and accessVery expensive, overkill for minor searches

Best Practices for Safe and Ethical Lookups

When leveraging any of these methods to identify another person through their license plate, adhere to these guidelines:

  • Never abuse plate info to stalk, harass, or otherwise disturb someone. Only seek out information needed for legitimate purposes.
  • Consider alternatives first – can the info be obtained directly by just talking to the person? Start with the simplest approach.
  • Get legal guidance if unsure whether your purpose aligns with local laws. Some states restrict usage for non-approved reasons.
  • Document your actions like search details, data accessed, and how info is used. This provides a paper trail showing adherence to proper procedures.
  • Be transparent by disclosing to the person that you performed a search and sharing the results. Omitting details can damage trust and relationships.
  • Secure any results responsibly by encrypting digital files and properly disposing of physical documents with personal data.

Following these ethical principles ensures you stay on firm legal ground and avoid misusing the array of fast, affordable plate search options at your fingertips today.

Can a License Plate Number Lead Me to Them?

In summary, with the right approach, a license plate number can provide the trail of breadcrumbs to identify a stranger, find a long lost friend, or gather evidence on an at-fault driver. Online paid services offer unparalleled convenience and results for everyday needs. Public records provide a slower but free option for the patient. Or tap into a private investigator‘s expertise for more elusive targets.

Just be sure to use any uncovered information responsibly. While cars grant us anonymity on the road, license plate lookups can quickly undo that veil of privacy. Use this ability judiciously and ethically, and know the wealth of data just a few characters of a license plate can unveil in skilled hands.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.