In most cases, when a person needs to track a vehicle, they only have a license plate number to work off of. This is usually because you’re the victim of a hit-and-run and only had time to take down the license plate number before the driver drove away so you could file a police report. Unfortunately, U.S. government regulations make it challenging to find out who a vehicle is registered to with only a license plate. Nevertheless, below are a few methods you can use to find the owner of a vehicle by license plate number.

Step 1. Collect Necessary Information

Ask Yourself Why You Need the Information on the Vehicle Owner

Local governments aren’t going to freely hand over information on registered drivers, so it’s important you have a steadfast reason for collecting the information you’re asking for. Also, keep in mind that lying about the reason you’re seeking this information can result in fines and jail sentences, depending on where you live.

Contact law enforcement

If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident or feel a vehicle owner is a risk to public safety, you should ask for assistance from local police. Not only do they have more resources to help you track down the registered owner of a vehicle, but often enough they’re more than willing to assist in anything you need.

Find out Information on Your Own

Fortunately, if you took a picture of the license plate, you’ll also know the color, make, and model of the car. From that information, you can determine what the car’s year is, what state it was issued, and what city it was registered.

Step 2. Running a Search

Use Government Resources

First, identify the local government office that’s in charge of registering motor vehicles. As long as a car has license plates, a government agency can track them down. However, it depends on your local laws if you can have access to this information. It can be especially challenging if the driver registered their plates out of state. This can delay your request from weeks to months.

Next, you should fill out an information request form. This form generally asks for information about yourself and why you’re requesting the information. You should provide as much detail as you can about the vehicle you’re looking for, in addition to the license plate number you recorded. Often enough, the more information you offer, the quicker you will receive results.

You should then submit your documents and pay the fees for your search. Fortunately, vehicle lookup fees only cost $50, which is much cheaper than hiring a private company. You must pay a fee for your search, which will vary but generally will be less than $50. However, depending on where you live, you may need to submit proof of identity before submitting your documents.

Finally, you should receive the results of your request through the mail. However, if you don’t hear back from the government agency within four weeks, you should reach out and ask about the status of your request. Additionally, once you receive your requested information, you may have to do further research, For example, if your search request showed the driver’s first and last name, but not their residence.

Hire a Private Investigator

Another method you can use to find the owner of a car is by enlisting the services of a private investigator. First, you will need to find a private investigator. You can do this easily through a quick online search. Make sure to do your background research so you know that you are working with a trusted individual. Read online reviews and ensure that they are fully licensed. If the license plate is from somewhere far away, find a PI in the area where the plate is from.

Then, reach out to your chosen investigator. Be sure to set up an interview with them before you officially hire them. Make sure you understand every step of the process and ask questions about the things you do not. Keep in mind that hiring a private investigator is often very expensive so make sure you discuss costs up front. You should also ask if they have past experience with license plate lookup.

After you hire them, they can begin their work. You will hand over the license plate number and any other useful information you gathered in step one.

Run an Online Search

The last method you can try to determine who a vehicle is registered to is by running an online search. There are websites that allow you to run a reverse license plate number search for a nominal fee. One such site is It’s almost impossible to find a free reverse license plate lookup service. All you need to do is type in the license plate number and let the website do the rest of the work. Shortly, you will be able to see what the owner’s name is.