Find License Plate Number [By VIN and Other Methods]

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues a plate number to every vehicle in the United States upon registration. The license plate needs to be on every car before driving. But what if the car has no license plate? How do you find the license plate number? 

To find a license plate number, use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can also search for other documents that you have on hand, such as car registration, title, or insurance card. Alternatively, you can visit the local motor vehicles department and present the necessary documents to obtain the plate number.

Read on to learn more about finding the license plate number by VIN and other methods.

How to Find License Plate Number by VIN 

find license plate number

The easiest and most obvious way of finding your license plate number is by looking at the front and rear of the car. However, if the car has no license plate on it, how can you find the number?

One of the common ways of finding the plate number is through VIN. Also called frame number and chassis number, the VIN is a 17-digit code with unique letters and numbers. It was first used in 1954 and varied from one manufacturer to another, which was confusing. In 1981, the format became standard across all vehicles. 

Here is a breakdown of each of the digit’s meaning in a VIN: 

  • 1st Character: This stands for the country of origin. 1 is for the United States. 2 is for Canada. 3 is for Mexico. It can also be letters, such as J for Japan and K for Korea. 
  • 2nd Character: It is for the vehicle manufacturer. One digit can correspond to different companies. For instance, A is for Mitsubishi, Jaguar, and Audi. 
  • 3rd to 8th Characters: These numbers correspond to the VDS or vehicle descriptor section. The exact meaning may differ between carmakers. It can indicate the type of vehicle, transmission, or restraint system, among others. 
  • 9th Character: Also called check digit, it is for the validation of the VIN. It is mandatory for North America but not in Europe. 
  • 10th Character: It is a worldwide standard that shows the model year of the vehicle. 
  • 11th Character: This is indicative of the final plant of assembly. The plant codes will depend on the standard of the manufacturer. 
  • 12th to 17th Characters: It is the serial number of a car. 

How to Locate the VIN 

To find your license plate number using a VIN, the first thing to do is to go to the driver’s side. The VIN is at the corner where the dashboard and windshield meet. 

If you cannot find the VIN in the dashboard, the next place where you should look is the part of the door where it latches upon closing. It can also be on the firewall of the engine, body panel, or steering column. 

Car manufacturers use innovative technologies for etching the VIN, making it permanent in their location. This is a way to deter theft.

A windshield replacement might be necessary to change the VIN illegally. Even so, it is still permanently written on the other parts of a car. 

How to Check VIN Online 

While the VIN is useful, it does not indicate the actual plate number. Once you already have it on hand, you can go online. You will find free websites that check the VIN in an instant. All that you need is to input the code, and it reveals the information you need to know. 

However, while you can use a free VIN lookup tool, the information they provide may vary. In some cases, they might not include the actual plate number. Some might show only if the vehicle was stolen or salvaged. 

Using VIN Checking Tools 

A quick online search for “VIN Checker” will reveal a long list of results. Some might seem too good to be true. You are probably left wondering about their legitimacy. 

Most of the time, they are reliable. We advise going through reviews and using only the positive user feedback. As much as possible, avoid those that require payment. You have several free options to do this search, as long as you know where to look. 

Nonetheless, a common drawback with free VIN checkers is the limitation of the information that they can provide. A popular VIN decoder site is

Other Uses of VIN 

Aside from checking the plate number, the following is other information that you will know with the use of a VIN: 

  • Number of owners a vehicle had
  • Date of the last inspection 
  • If it has been stolen 
  • If it has submerged in water 
  • Indication of an open recall 
  • Technical specifications of the vehicle 

Removing the VIN 

The most common motive behind the removal of VIN is theft. The robber would not like others to know that the car was stolen.

Additionally, it is also done to hide crucial information about the car, such as when it has already submerged in water or is involved in an accident. 

Under federal laws, removing the VIN constitutes a felony offense with up to $250,000 fines or five years of jail time. The penalties can also vary on the regulations of the states. 

Again, you can find license plate numbers by using online VIN checking tools. Search for VIN lookup tools online. Then, in one of the lookup tools, you input the code, and it reveals the information you need to know. 

How to Lookup a License Plate Number

How to Find a License Plate Number Using Other Methods

how to find license plate number by vin

Aside from the VIN, you can also find the plate number on different documents, including those that we’ll talk about below:

1. Car Registration 

One of the best things to do is check the car registration for those wondering about license plate numbers. Car registration is a document that proves you are a vehicle’s legitimate owner. It also shows that your automobile passed emissions inspections and safety tests. 

Car registration rules differ depending on your state of residence. You will pay a fee during the process, and in turn, you will receive a license plate, a sticker, and a registration document. 

A car registration must be renewed as needed. Often, it is one to two years. The failure to renew the registration has corresponding penalties. 

The format of the registration card may vary, but in most cases, it includes the license plate number. It also indicates the VIN, which you can use to search the plate number online if it is not registered. It also shows the name of the owner, address, and date of registration. 

2. Car Title 

Aside from the car registration, the car title is another important document that proves ownership. Whether you have a brand-new or second-hand car, it is always important to have a copy of the title or pink slip

The information in a car title will vary within states. One of the most common is the VIN, which you can use for searching the license plate. More so, in most cases, it also shows the plate number. You will also find the car make and year of production. 

If your car title is nowhere to be found, you need to apply for a duplicate. You can get a copy in your DMV office. Alternatively, you can also request it online. Make sure that you have the necessary supporting documents. 

3. Insurance Card 

The insurance card is another crucial document you always need in your car, along with the certificate of registration and title. 

It might seem like a small piece of useless paper, but it is important. In the event of an accident or any unfortunate incident, this will cover you against financial loss. It is proof that you have been paying a premium. 

The contents of the insurance card differ from one company to another. However, in most instances, it states the name of the insurer and car owner, date of issuance and expiration, policy number, VIN, and plate number. 

4. Visit the DMV Office 

If all else fails, the best thing to do is go to the DMV office in your area. They keep records of all vehicles registered in a specific state. You might not even need to visit them. Try to call or email the office and see if they can give you your plate number without an appearance. 

However, take note that the office will not just issue the plate number to anyone. They may ask for supporting documents, making sure that you are the legitimate owner. 

5. Visit Your Mechanic 

Another way of knowing your plate number is to go to your mechanic or any other place where your vehicle is serviced. They most probably have documents indicating your car’s records. 

What Is the Best Way to Do A license Plate Lookup in Illinois?

Things You Need to Know About a Car’s Plate Number 

what is my license plate number

Now that you know how to find the license plate number by VIN and other methods, we’ll share a few more things about car plates:

1. Available in Diverse Designs 

Every state in the US has its set of rules about the design of the plate number. Most of the time, they display the most famous symbol or landmark of the state. For instance, Nevada and Colorado’s plates have mountain ranges. 

2. Customizing Your License Plate 

Hate the design of your state’s license plate? Would you like to have the option to pick the numbers and letters on the plate? Such is possible through vanity plates! 

With a vanity plate, you can personalize the combinations. You can even choose a word that you like. Nonetheless, states have a list of words that they do not allow. It includes those that relate to profanity. 

A custom license plate requires an additional fee. You must settle the payment at the DMV, which also requires the renewal of the registration based on state laws. 

However, take note that any license plate modification must go through the DMV. You cannot do it on your own. Otherwise, it will have corresponding consequences. 

3. Driving Without a Plate Number 

National law specifies the penalties for driving without a license plate. The consequences will vary depending on the state where you are caught. 

In all states, your car needs a rear plate. In some, it is also necessary to have the plate on the front. Nonetheless, there are exceptions when you can drive even without it. For instance, such is acceptable when you are driving a new car

The penalties may vary, which include a verbal warning from the arresting officer. You might pay a fine that can range from $100 to $500, depending on the state. There are situations when you still have to go to the police station to show that you already have the plate installed after settling the fine. 

4. Using a Plate Number Lookup Tool 

Earlier, we talked about using a VIN search tool to know your license plate number. There are also tools wherein the one you have to input is the plate number of your vehicle, and it will reveal the necessary information. 

With a reverse license plate number lookup tool, you will learn about the car’s history, which is important if you are a second-hand vehicle buyer. The results will show accident history, lien records, inspection history, and flood damage, among other things. 

In Closing

The license plate number is one of the most important vehicle identifiers. It is a legal requirement. By any chance, if you cannot find your plate number, you can check using a VIN, a unique 17-digit code. Once you know the VIN, you can search online. 

Alternatively, you can also check the plate number in your car registration, title, or insurance card. They will indicate either the license number or the VIN that you can use to know the latter. Additionally, you can also visit the DMV office or your local mechanic.

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