Find License Plate Number by VIN

If you’re buying a used vehicle, it is always a good practice not to trust the seller completely. You’ve just met, and you should always be suspicious. In this vein, are you sure that the vehicle that’s up for sale is not stolen? One way to check is to find the license plate number by VIN.

There are two ways to find a license plate number using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). These are the following:

  • Going through your local Department of Motorized Vehicles office
  • Using an online VIN lookup tool

Of the two, the easiest is through the online VIN lookup tool. The problem is that this tool can be tricky to use and sometimes even dangerous. Still, to guarantee the quality of information, it is better to go through the DMV, even if it is more difficult.

Read on to learn more about finding a vehicle’s license plate using its VIN and what other important information you can get.

Find License Plate Number by VIN

find license plate number by vin

As mentioned a while ago, you can use two methods to find a vehicle’s license plate number using its VIN. One is through the DMV, and the other is by using an online VIN checker.

Of the two, the DMV method will provide you with more extensive information, not just the license plate number. However, it is also quite difficult.

Visit the Local Department of Motorized Vehicles (DMV) Office

Before visiting the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, ensure that the car is registered in the same state. There is no single license plate registry for the entire US. There are 50 of them, one for each state. This means you cannot search for a New York plate using the Wisconsin DMV registry.

If you are sure that you got the right DMV, you can visit them. However, it would be better to call them beforehand to check their office hours before you go.

If necessary, you might also need to set an appointment to ensure everything goes smoothly. This is especially true nowadays, with COVID-19 restrictions in most states.

On the other hand, you can access their online portal rather than going to the DMV in person. Once you are in, check if they provide a VIN lookup service. Take note that not all DMVs have these online features, especially since it deals with sensitive information.

Use an Online VIN Lookup Tool

Finding a reliable VIN lookup tool can be a challenge, especially with the information you are looking for. It is significantly easier to find the VIN using the license plate information rather than the other way around.

If you can find an online tool that can help, you’ll realize that the information you get is quite limited. This is intentional because it keeps the vehicle owners’ privacy.

However, this is not to say that you can get useful information. Some online tools can give you more than just the license plate number.

For example, you can get the current market value of the car and its detailed history report. The history includes the following:

  • Previous owners,
  • Registration renewals and changes, and
  • Other information.

Where Else Can You Find Your Vehicle’s Plate Number?

You should only go to the DMV if you have expired all efforts to find your car’s license plate. Check everywhere you can because it can be quite hard to convince the DMV to help you without probable cause.

You will find your vehicle’s license plates on its certificate of registration and the receipt you got after you registered. You will also find the license plate on speeding tickets, parking citations, and other traffic tickets you might have received.

What Is a License Plate Lookup?

How to Find the VIN of Your Car

find license plate number by vin free

There are several places on the vehicle where you can find the VIN, namely:

1. Etched on the Windshield

Stand outside the car and look at the lower corner on the driver’s side. You should find the VIN etched right there on the glass.

2. In the Engine Bay

It may also be stamped on the car body, right on the firewall, inside the engine bay.

3. In the Rear Wheel Well

Some cars have their VIN stamped inside the wheel well of the rear right wheel.

4. Inside the Driver’s Side Door

Check the inside of the driver’s side door. There should be a sticker or plate there stamped with the car’s VIN.

Not All Online VIN Lookup Tools Are Illegal

Not all online VIN lookup tools are illegal. However, most of the ones you will find are either scams or do not work at all. Be careful when a site says it will provide you with a service for free but asks for personal information. It is most likely a phishing site. This is a tool used by identity thieves.

Legit Online Sites Provide Information

On the other hand, legit online sites provide some information. Likely, you will not get the license plate number or even the registered owner’s name.

However, you can get information about how many owners have registered for the vehicle. It is also possible to get details on how many claims it made on its insurance.

Get Reliable Information Through the DMV

The only way to get reliable information about your license plate number is through the DMV. On the other hand, in some extreme cases, you can get it by filing a report with the police. To find a license plate number using other methods, see our other article: Find License Plate Number.

Again, how to find license plate numbers by VIN? To find the license plate number by VIN, bring your proof of car ownership and VIN to your local DMV office. Alternatively, you can use an online VIN checker.

What Information Can You Get from an Illinois License Lookup?

How to Find the License Plate Using the VIN with the DMV

find license plate number by vin dmv

Bring All the Paperwork Regarding Your Vehicle

If you’re going to the DMV, bring all the paperwork you can find regarding the vehicle you’re getting information for. If you are the owner, you must bring documents that prove your ownership.

It should specifically be a valid ID or two, a driver’s license, and documents that state the vehicle’s VIN. Some examples of these documents are the vehicle’s registration and deed of sale.

If someone else representing you will be doing this, they will also need to provide your written and signed permission. However, if you want to increase your chances of success, you need to go there in person.

Bring Evidence That the Car Is Stolen

Now, there is no guarantee that the DMV will consider your request to find the plate number using the VIN. To convince them otherwise, bring evidence that you do not have access to the license plate. For instance, your car’s been stolen, and the thief changed the plates.

Convince the DMV about why you want to do a reverse-VIN lookup. Why are you looking for the plate number? Did you forget or misplace it by any chance? You are asking for information that the law strictly protects, and they would not readily release it without any reason.

In Case You’re Not the Car Owner

Now, let’s say you are not the car owner; you want to find the license plate number. In that case, it is doubtful that the DMV can or will help. The DMV will not give you the information unless you are a deputized private investigator or police force member.

Get the Information Through the Police

With that said, the only way to get the information you need is through the police. However, even when you manage to file a report about the VIN, the police are not allowed to give the license plate. They will only be using it to investigate the vehicle.

Can You Drive a Car Without License Plates?

There is only one legitimate reason for you to get permission to drive a car without license plates. If you just purchased the car from a private seller and cannot give you the plates.

The reason is that they need to turn over the plates to the DMV to sell the vehicle legally. So, you have no choice but to drive the car plateless for the time being.

This is the only time it is okay to drive your car without a license plate. However, expect to be constantly pulled over by every police officer who sees your car. That said, ensure that you always bring the following:

1. Car’s Title

Carry the title all the time. If the seller can’t provide that, it is best to buy another car. You will have a tough time obtaining a title for a car if you’re not the original owner. Of course, bring your driver’s license, too.

2. Bill of Sale

You also need to bring the bill of sale (also called deed of sale) of the car. This document proves that the seller sold you the car at an agreed-upon price and in its current condition. The document should be duly notarized and signed by both parties.

3. Insurance

Also, ensure the car is already insured. If the car does not have that much value to insure, you can get liability insurance. Usually, a car insurance policy does not take effect until the next business day. Hold off on driving the car until then.

In Closing

You can find a license plate number using the VIN in two ways:

  • Going through your local Department of Motorized Vehicles office
  • Using an online VIN lookup tool

It is easier to use the online VIN lookup tools. However, remember that it can sometimes be dangerous if you go to the wrong site.

For more accurate information, the DMV is the better choice. This is assuming you have all the required paperwork and can convince them of the urgency of your need.

So, don’t lose hope if you cannot recall your license plate number. There are always ways for you to find it.

Related reading:

Find Vehicle Owner by License Plate (Free)

License Plate Screw Is Stuck