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While most people believe it’s easy to gain access to virtually any information they need about others, that’s not necessarily the case when trying to finding out who owns a vehicle. Even though it’s possible to do so, the process can at times be complex due to much of the information being restricted to certain persons or agencies. However, with a little ingenuity, patience, and determination, chances are you will eventually get what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in learning the ways in which this can be done, read on to find out the steps you’ll need to take.

License Plate Number

If you have been in a situation such as a hit-and-run, the only information you may have been able to obtain was the license plate number of the other vehicle as it sped off from the scene. Whether you wrote it down or took a picture of it with your smartphone, you probably think you’ll have the driver’s name in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be that easy to find out who owns a vehicle that was involved in a hit-and-run. Due to individual privacy laws, access to this information is heavily regulated. Yet despite this, there are several ways you can try to do a license plate lookup.

Gather Your Information

1. Identify Why You Need to Find the Owner

Since this information is highly restricted, you need to clearly identify why you need to find the vehicle’s owner. If for any reason you lie or provide false information on a government document related to this matter, you could find yourself paying hefty fines or facing jail time.

2. Contact the Police

In many cases where a hit-and-run or other serious legal situation took place, contacting the police may be your best bet since they have many resources to find the owner. However, it’s important to remember certain facts, including:

  • The police may not give the information to you, but instead, use it themselves
  • The police may contact the driver, then contact you to provide further details

3. Use Whatever Information You Have

Even if you aren’t completely sure about the license plate number, you probably have other details regarding the vehicle, such as:

  • Color of the car
  • License plate’s state
  • If the tag was expired

4. Speak With Your Insurance Company

If you sustained damage due to the other driver, contact your insurance company to file an accident claim. In many cases, the company will locate and sue the vehicle’s owner, which will keep you from having to locate the driver yourself.

Vehicle Identification Number

The vehicle identification number, commonly known as the VIN, can be a key component to finding the owner of a vehicle. Essentially serving the same function as a Social Security number does for people, the VIN consists of 17 numbers and letters, and is assigned to the vehicle during its production. Usually located beneath the windshield or in the engine bay, a VIN check can provide a variety of information, such as:

  • Vehicle manufacturer
  • Where the vehicle was built
  • Vehicle year
  • Plant that assembled the vehicle
  • Vehicle brand, type, and engine size

Along with this information, the VIN helps police identify vehicle theft or fraud, and also helps consumers learn about a vehicle’s history if they are looking to buy a new vehicle.

Contact the DMV

If you’ve gathered together your information and feel as if you won’t need the help of the police, you can always contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles for assistance. When you do, remember that you will still need much of the same information you would have if you had used the police or tried to find the person on your own, such as the plate number, make and model of the vehicle, and other pertinent information. In most cases, you will probably be able to do most of this online, since the forms you’ll need should be on the agency’s website. Once you’ve finished filling out the form, gather all the documents you may need to submit as well to ensure you’ve provided all the necessary facts. If you’re satisfied with everything, make copies of all pertinent documents for your records, then submit everything along with your payment to the agency, which in most cases will be less than $50. While in most cases the results may take as much as two weeks, in some cases you may be able to obtain the information in a matter of minutes. However, be prepared to wait.

Online Databases

You can do a reverse license plate lookup or VIN check and find out who the owner of a vehicle is. Prices will vary but many will offer the service for a few dollars.

Hiring a Private Investigator

If all else fails and you are determined to find a vehicle’s owner no matter what it takes, you can always hire a private investigator. Whether you search for a PI online or find one in your local community, make sure you are choosing an investigator who has the proper credentials and is licensed by their state. In some areas anyone can call themselves a private eye, so be careful when making your selection. Once you’ve selected a PI, have a consultation with them to ensure they can handle the task. If you’re ready to move forward, be sure to always sign a contract that spells out key details, including:

  • How much they will charge
  • The information you will receive
  • How long the search will take
  • If you will receive status updates during the investigation

While this may sound like a last-ditch effort, it can pay off many times. However, unlike the other search options, be prepared to pay quite a bit more for the efforts of a private investigator.

Don’t Give Up

While locating a vehicle’s registered owner can be complex and frustrating at times, don’t give up if you get discouraged. After all, if you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run, vehicle fraud, or other situation that had you on the losing end, it’s well worth the effort to see that justice is served. So no matter which option you choose, don’t quit until you are satisfied with the results.