How Can You Trace a License Plate for Free?

To trace a license plate for free, check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to find out if your state offers a license plate look-up, plate search or owner identification. Another option is to use a third-party information provider or website that accesses public records for information protected under the Freedom of Information Act. Running a license plate check for certain information is only legal when performed by a law enforcement official.

Determine whether your state DMV offices offer free services by contacting the DMV or visiting the DMV website to check the options available. Some third-party information providers may charge a fee. These providers search approved public records from DMV, courts, corrections and vital statistics databases.

If you are searching for your own information, find your car's registration cards or certificates that contain the plate number. Some states have an option for car owners to look up information online. To do so, you need identification information, such as the car's Vehicle Identification Number or your driver's license number.

Beware of companies or websites that offer free license plate or tag number searches. Read the fine print on the search agreement, and research the company thoroughly, as many of these companies are phishing scams.