Vehicle Tag Number [What Is It and How to Look It Up on a Car?]

There are many ways to identify a vehicle, including its owner and history. Among others, one of the most common is a vehicle tag number. What is a vehicle tag number? How do you find it? 

A vehicle tag number is an alphanumeric identifier. It is the same as the plate number with a format that varies from one state to another. In the United States, most tag numbers will have five to seven letters/numbers. This will show driving history, recall notices, and accident reports. Third-party websites are available to look up the tag number and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle website. 

Read on to learn more about a vehicle tag number, including what it is and how to look it up on a car. 

What Is a Vehicle Tag Number?

vehicle tag number

The vehicle tag number is the license plate number of your car. Aside from the license plate, you can also find it in your vehicle’s registration sticker and documents. It is issued to the car owner and serves as valid identification upon registration. 

In the United States, tag number is more commonly used on the East Coast. Meanwhile, most people call them license plate numbers on the West Coast. Nonetheless, they mean the same thing. It is required for any vehicle registered in the United States and even in other countries. 

How to Look for the Vehicle Tag Number in a Car? 

Look at the Car’s License Plate Number

The easiest way to look for a tag number is to look at the plate number of your car. It is located in both the front and rear portions, depending on the rules of the state or country. In motorcycles, meanwhile, they are often found only at the back.

Check the Car’s Registration

Another place to check for your vehicle tag number is the registration. It is often on the glovebox. The specific location and format will differ, depending on where you are from. In most cases, however, it is easily visible. 

Available Online

Alternatively, a tag number on the car is also available online. You can use the number to reveal more information about the car and the vehicle, including its registered state. It can also reveal the following:

  • Recall notices,
  • Accident reports, and
  • DUI arrests, among other things.

Visit the State Department’s Website Responsible for Vehicle Registrations

There are places where you can look for the tag number online for free, while in others, you will need to pay a fee. Visit the website of the state’s department responsible for vehicle registrations. In most cases, there is a portion that says Vehicle Tag Registration. Enter the tag number and hit enter. 

Find Vehicle Tag Numbers on Third-party Websites

You can also find vehicle tag numbers on various third-party websites. Examples of these websites include FindByPlate.com and AutoCheck.com.

Vehicle Tag Number vs Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 

While a vehicle number is the same as a license plate number, note that it is different from the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):

1. Location

The biggest difference between the two is where you will find them. The tag number is on the license plate or car sticker.

On the other hand, the VIN is on the different parts of the car, which you cannot see from the outside. It is the fingerprint of your car, which is a combination of several letters and numbers. 

2. Information You Can Get from VIN

By looking at the VIN, you will know the vehicle manufacturer and place of origin. It also describes the vehicle, including the following:

  • Engine type
  • Size
  • Model year

You will not find these details by simply looking at the license plate. 

3. Vehicle Tag Number Is Available Upon Vehicle’s Registration

More so, the VIN is available right out of the production facility. In contrast, a vehicle tag number is available only upon the vehicle’s registration.

4. Tag Number Can Change

Depending on the ownership change and registration location, the tag number can also change in some states. At the same time, the VIN remains the same. 

Vehicle Tag Number Format in the United States

vehicle tag number license plate

Now that you know what a tag number on a car is, you must also learn how the formats differ. This way, it is easier to identify the number, especially where it is from. 

Regular license plates in the United States typically contain five to seven alphanumeric characters. On the other hand, in the case of vanity plates, you will find up to eight alphanumeric characters. 

Tag Numbers by State and Territory 

The formats of vehicle tag numbers are consistent within states. Below is a list of the format of tag numbers by state and territories:

  1. Alabama: 0AB1234, 00AB1234
  2. Alaska: ABC123 
  3. American Samoa: 1234
  4. Arizona: ABC1DE 
  5. Arkansas: ABC12D 
  6. California: 1ABC234 
  7. Colorado: ABCD12 
  8. Connecticut: AB12345 
  9. Delaware: 123456 
  10. District of Columbia: AB1234 
  11. Florida: ABCD12 
  12. Georgia: ABC1234 
  13. Guam: AB1234 
  14. Hawaii: ABC123, HAB123, ZAB123, KAB123, LAB123, MAB123 (depending on the county)
  15. Idaho: A123456 
  16. Illinois: AB12345 
  17. Indiana: 123A, 123AB, 123ABC, ABC123 
  18. Iowa: ABC123
  19. Kansas: 123ABC 
  20. Kentucky: ABC123
  21. Louisiana: 123ABC
  22. Maine: 1234AB 
  23. Maryland: 1AB2345
  24. Massachusetts: 12A345, 1ABC23, 1AAB234, 123AB4, 12AB34, 1234AB, 123ABC
  25. Michigan: ABC1234, 1ABC23, ABC123 
  26. Minnesota: 123ABC, ABC123, 
  27. Mississippi: ABC123 
  28. Missouri: AA1B2C
  29. Montana: 012345A, 001234A, ABC123 
  30. Nebraska: ABC123 
  31. Nevada: 123A45 
  32. New Jersey: D12ABC
  33. New York: ABC1234
  34. North Carolina: ABC1234 
  35. North Dakota: 123ABC 
  36. Northern Mariana Islands: ABC123
  37. Ohio: ABC1234 
  38. Oklahoma: ABC123
  39. Oregon: 123ABC, ABC123 
  40. Pennsylvania: ABC1234
  41. Puerto Rico: ABC123 
  42. Rhode Island: 123456 
  43. South Carolina: ABC123, 1234AB 
  44. South Dakota: 0A1234, 0AB123, 00AA123
  45. Tennessee: 1A23B4 
  46. Texas: ABC1234 
  47. Utah: A123BC, A123BC, 1A2BC
  48. Vermont: ABC123 
  49. U.S. Virgin Islands: ABC123
  50. Virginia: ABC1234 
  51. Washington: ABC1234 
  52. West Virginia: 0AB123 
  53. Wisconsin: ABC1234 
  54. Wyoming: 012345, 01234A, 0012345

Again, what is a vehicle tag number? Your license plate displays an alphanumeric sequence or vehicle tag number. The length of the sequence varies depending on the state. Note that each vehicle tag number is unique.

Special Vehicle Tag Numbers 

Aside from the traditional vehicle tag numbers above, you will also find special types in the United States:

Vanity Plates

For instance, some states allow car owners to request a vanity plate so that you can choose a tag number on your liking. It is a personalized license plate meant to provide the same information as a regular license. 

The requirements for registering for a vanity plate differ from one state to another. The approval depends on the discretion of the authority handling motor services. Note that using a vanity plate number is illegal without the corresponding registration. 

Diplomatic License Plate

Another special type of vehicle tag number is a diplomatic license plate. As the name implies, the issuance is exclusive to the members of the diplomatic community:

  • Type A and D plates: For diplomats,
  • Type C: For consul, and
  • Type S: For neither but still belongs to the diplomatic plate category. 

More so, the law requires government-owned and leased vehicles to have a conspicuous identification in the form of their vehicle tag number. This is to identify the owner easily and for more efficient management, record keeping, and security. 

How to Apply for a Vehicle Tag Number

vehicle tag number lookup

The application for a vehicle tag number depends on your location and the specific requirements by the department regulating motor vehicles:

Through the Dealership

In the United States, you can do so through the dealership after purchasing a car. The dealer will collect the fees, information, and documents. They will handle the process, allowing you to save time and effort. 

Go to the Local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

On the other hand, if your car is from a private party, you will have to register it yourself and get a vehicle tag number. You will need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

To process the request, you need several documents, such as:

  • Vehicle title,
  • Bill of sale,
  • Driver’s license, and
  • Proof of insurance. 

Whether registering at the dealership or DMV, you will receive a sticker. This will be the temporary identifier showing the vehicle tag number while waiting for the actual plate. 

Moving to a Different State Requires New Tag Number

Under the laws of most states, if you will move to a new state, you need to secure a new registration for a vehicle tag number.

For instance, if you have bought and registered a car in California and decide to move to New York and bring the same car, you need to apply for a new tag number.

Cases Where You Do Not Need a Change of Tag Number

Active Military Service

There are some exemptions wherein you cannot apply for a change of tag number even when moving between states. For instance, those in active military service do not need to do so since their legal residence does not change even when assigned to a new post.

Undergraduates

Undergraduates moving out of their state to a new state where their university is also may not need to change their tag numbers. 

Can You Apply for a Vehicle Tag Number Online? 

This will depend on the policy of the state. Many states are shifting towards digital platforms. California, New York, Arizona, and Florida are some states that will let you apply for a tag number online.

In other instances, you will need to take a trip to the DMV office in your place to get a tag number. 

Do You Need to Renew Your Tag Number? 

You need to file a registration renewal notice, but this does not mean that you will be getting a new tag number. In many states, the renewal is mandatory every two years.

While you will receive a renewal certificate, the tag number remains the same. You can request a new tag number, but such will come at an extra cost. 

How to Properly Use California Dealer Plates

Conclusion – Vehicle Tag Number [What Is It and How to Look It Up on a Car]

A vehicle tag number is the license plate number of a vehicle. It is an alphanumeric code that serves as an identifier. It shows important information about the vehicle, including its state of registration, owner, and even accident reports and recall notices. 

The easiest way to find the vehicle tag number is to look in your car. It is in front and at the back. You can also find it in the vehicle registration document.

Alternatively, you can search for information it contains online. There are websites wherein you have to input the tag number and state. In turn, it reveals information you need to know about the vehicle and even the owner.