Finding an individual or business entity based on a license plate number requires a subscription to an information database or a formal request to the DMV in the state where the vehicle is registered. License plate numbers are considered public record based on the Freedom of Information Act, which means they are available to U.S. citizens.
Subscription databases collect government records, and then offer those records to paying subscribers who want to search their databases. Some of these services are not reputable, so it is important for users to research businesses before providing credit card or banking information.
It takes more time to submit a formal request to the DMV, but it is usually safer because no third parties are involved. Some DMVs offer this information through their websites, while others require citizens to call, write a letter, submit a form or visit a DMV location to initiate a public records check. It can take several weeks to receive the results, which is why subscription services have increased in popularity.
The DMV might charge a nominal fee to approve the records check. Some states require citizens to provide a valid reason for requesting public license plate records, such as identifying the culprit in a hit-and-run accident, researching statistics, finding a stolen vehicle or obtaining a driving record for a potential employee.