How to Check Michigan License Plates

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In every state, including Michigan, private individuals do not have access to others' license plate information, which is protected by the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act. However, they can look up their own records via the Michigan Department of State for a seven-day period.

Some third-party sites claim to offer easily accessible Michigan license plate number information, but they are not always reliable and may charge service fees.

Driver's Privacy Protection Act

In 1994, the federal government enacted the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) to protect the privacy of vehicle owners and drivers. The Act prohibits the use or release of information by employees, contractors and law enforcement personnel associated with DMVs across all states.

The DPPA also requires permission from drivers or vehicle owners before their data can be released or sold to a third-party record search site.

Under the Act, an individual's name and address, phone number, Social Security number, driver's license number, photo, age, height, weight, disability, gender, fingerprints and health information are prohibited from release or use. However, a motor vehicle operator's information may be used for:

  • Functions of government agencies.
  • Vehicle emissions, products, or safety recalls or vehicle theft.
  • Vehicle market research and surveys.
  • Transactions initiated to verify the accuracy of personal information for legitimate business needs.
  • Civil, criminal, administrative and arbitration proceedings.
  • Statistics reports and research.
  • Insurance actions.
  • Impounded or towed vehicles notice.
  • Security services or licensed investigators functions.
  • Toll facility activities.
  • In response to a records request, if there is permission from the person whose records are in question.
  • Bulk marketing.
  • State's legitimate use, if it relates to vehicle or public safety.

Access of Driver's Own Records in Michigan

Drivers can link to their own driver records, including their vehicle title, through the Department of State for seven days. To access their record, they must first create an account with a user name and password on Michigan License Plate Lookup and authenticate their identifying information.

The fee is $12, and users can pay with an e-check or bank account number, credit card or debit card. They can access their record any time during those seven days by logging in and choosing "View Transaction History."

Users who cannot access their driving records during that time can ask for a refund using the Michigan Department of State's refund request form.

Certification of Records

Individuals searching their record for their own use do not need to certify it. However, they may need certification if they use the record for another purpose, such as in court or for an employer. Driver records purchased from the Michigan Department of State already have certification.

Exceptions for Purchasing Others' Records

Michigan residents can purchase only their own records, but there are exceptions to this rule. Users from commercial and governmental agencies can obtain an individual's Michigan driver's license, watercraft, mobile home and recreational vehicle records under particular conditions.

The Michigan Driving Record Subscription Service gives organizations access to their employees' driving records annually or when those employees have restrictions, revocations, suspensions or violations on their driving record. Individuals may wish to seek out another driver's record via a third-party site, however these are often not reputable or current and typically charge a fee.

Searching for Personalized Plates in Michigan

Individuals can also search for personalized plates, but the search won't necessarily offer owner information – it will just let them know if their idea for their license plate is free to use. On the "Online Services" page, users will go to "Vehicle Searches” and select “Check Personalized Plate availability" and follow directions to see if if their choice is available. If it is, they'll select “login to order your plate online," where they will create or log into their account to order a plate.

Users will pay a plate registration fee with an e-check/bank account number, credit or debit card (additional fees apply). Personalized plates also come with a service fees. A plate fee is due with a new vehicle registration or when changing already existing types of license plates, including standard plates and collector license plates.