How to Run a Plate Number

License Plates From Across America
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Due to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DDPA), only police and employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are typically allowed to run a license plate number, while everyday civilians are restricted. If you are insistent on running a license plate trace, however, a few avenues are available, including contacting your local DMV office, local police department or finding a website to perform the trace for you.

Contact your local police department if the reason you want to run the license plate search is crime-related, such as if you were the victim of a hit-and-run or any other automobile-related accident. The police have the primary means to run such a search, and it is best to leave such a case in the hands of the authorities. In such a case you will not be required to pay for the license plate search as it is a matter of police investigation.

Read More: How to Look Up License Plate Numbers

Contact a DMV office in the state where the vehicle you are trying to trace is registered if your reason for running the search is not crime-related. The majority of DMV offices will conduct a license plate trace for you so long as your reason for running the search isn’t in violation of the DDPA. You will have to fill out a request form, which includes listing the license plate number of the vehicle. You will also have to pay for the search so be sure to have a form of payment ready.

Utilize the services of a reputable website that will perform the license plate trace for you, such as, and (see Resources). All of these sites require a payment fee to perform the search so have a credit card or Paypal account handy for the transaction.

Hire a private investigator to run the license plate search for you. Many times private investigators are former police officers and detectives and thus have the access to run license plate searches. A private investigator may also be helpful in providing you with additional information about the owner of the vehicle you are searching for. Hiring the investigator will cost money so be prepared to provide payment.


  • Write down the license plate number of the vehicle you want to search as soon as you see it. Waiting to write the plate number down can cause you to forget the exact plate number and thus can lead you to search for the wrong vehicle and person.