California License Plate Lookup
Check Any CA License Plate Number and Get a Free Vehicle History
- Basic Vehicle Information: This includes details such as the make, model, year, and body style of the vehicle.
- Title Information: Information about the vehicle’s title, including whether it’s a clean title or if it has been branded as salvaged, rebuilt, or has a salvage title.
- Accident History: Reports may include information about any accidents the vehicle has been involved in. This could include the severity of the accidents and whether there was any structural damage.
- Odometer Readings: Reports typically show the history of recorded odometer readings. This can help identify potential odometer rollback fraud.
- Vehicle Market Value: This is the estimated current monetary value of a vehicle in the open market. It represents the price at which a vehicle is likely to be bought or sold based on various factors and conditions at a specific point in time.
- Lien and Repossession Records: Information on whether there are any outstanding liens on the vehicle or if it has been repossessed.
- Vehicle Use: Data on whether the vehicle has been used for personal, commercial, or rental purposes.
- Recalls and Defects: Reports may include information about any manufacturer recalls or known defects related to the vehicle.
- Theft Records: Information about whether the vehicle has been reported as stolen.
- Title and Registration History: Details about changes in ownership, title transfers, and the state where the vehicle was previously registered.
California Plate Serial Formats:
Want to contact the California DMV?
Office of the Director
Department of Motor Vehicles
2415 1st Ave., Mail Station F101
Sacramento, CA 95818-2606
California DMV Vehicle Lookup and License Plate Search Services
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not offer a free license plate search or VIN search service to the general public. However, they do provide online services and online access to certain vehicle information such as:
- Registration Renewal
- Driver’s license renewal
- Applying for a driver’s license
- Requesting a duplicate driver’s license or identification card
- Changing address on driver’s license or vehicle registration
- Paying driver’s license or registration fees
- Checking the status of driver’s license or registration application
- Ordering personalized license plates
- Scheduling appointments for driver’s license or vehicle registration services
- Finding a traffic school for a citation
- Submitting a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability
- Requesting a driving record
These are just some of the services offered by the California DMV online. The full list of available services can be found on the DMV’s website.
California License Plates, Decals, and Placards FAQs
California license plates are issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The state offers a variety of license plate options, including standard plates, special interest plates, and personalized plates.
Standard license plates in California have a blue and yellow design featuring the state name and the image of a bear. The plates are issued to the registered owner of the vehicle and are valid for a period of five years.
California required license plates on vehicles since 1905. Front and rear plates are required on most types of vehicle in California, including all passenger vehicles. Exceptions to this rule are motorcycles and trailers, which only require one rear license plate. License plates are used for identification purposes and provide law enforcement a means to locate the vehicle owner through DMV records. Rear plates must have current registration sticker in order to show that they are valid.
If your license plates have been stolen, mutilated, damaged, or lost; it is your responsibility to obtain a replacement. You’ll need to submit an Application for Replacement Plates Form (REG156) either by mail or in person at one of the DMV offices.
License Plate Sizes
Automobile, commercial, and trailer license plates are 12″ x 6″.
Motorcycle license plates issued prior to July 1, 1970, are 8″ x 5″. Those issued on or after that date are 7″ x 4″.
Identification plates issued since January 1, 1981, to vehicles not bearing automobile, commercial, trailer, or motorcycle plates are 7″ x 4″. Those issued prior to that date are 8″ x 5″.
License Plate Validity
Plates are valid by affixing appropriate stickers or tabs. The license plates remain with the vehicle except for certain plates which may, upon request of the owner and payment of appropriate fees, be reassigned to another vehicle. These license plates are environmental (personalized), special recognition or special interest license plates.
Transferring a California License Plate
To transfer a California license plate from one vehicle to another, follow these steps:
- Check eligibility: To transfer a license plate, both vehicles must be registered in California, and the license plate must be in good standing. The registration must also be current, or you must renew it before transferring the license plate.
- Remove the license plate from the original vehicle: Remove the license plate from the original vehicle, and keep it in a safe place.
- Complete the transfer application: Obtain the transfer application form from the California DMV website or a local DMV office. Complete the form with the required information, including the license plate number and the vehicle information for both the original and new vehicles.
- Pay the transfer fee: Pay the required transfer fee, which varies depending on the type of vehicle and license plate.
- Submit the transfer application: Submit the transfer application and payment to the California DMV by mail or in person at a local DMV office. If submitting by mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope to receive the new registration card and sticker.
- Receive new registration: After the DMV processes the transfer application, you will receive a new registration card and sticker for the new vehicle.
It’s important to note that the license plate transfer must be completed within 10 days of selling or transferring ownership of the original vehicle. Also, some special types of license plates, such as personalized or specialized plates, may have additional transfer requirements and fees.
License Plate Renewal
To renew your license plate registration in California, follow these steps:
- Determine your renewal date: Check your current registration card or your DMV account to find out when your license plate registration expires.
- Obtain a smog check: If your vehicle is more than four years old, a smog check is required before renewing your registration. Find a licensed smog check station and obtain a smog certificate.
- Check your address: Make sure your address is up to date with the DMV to ensure your renewal notice is sent to the correct address.
- Renew your registration: There are several ways to renew your license plate registration in California. You can renew online through the DMV website, by mail, by phone, or in person at a DMV office. To renew online, go to the DMV website and follow the instructions. You will need to provide your vehicle information, smog certificate, and payment of registration fees.
- Receive your new registration: After submitting your renewal application and fees, you will receive a new registration card and sticker in the mail. You can also print a temporary registration from the DMV website while waiting for your new registration to arrive.
Make sure to renew your license plate registration before it expires to avoid late fees and penalties. Keep in mind that the fees for renewing your registration may vary depending on the type of vehicle, its weight, and other factors.
How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in California?
In California, it is not possible for the general public to obtain personal information of a license plate owner due to privacy laws. However, there are some ways to obtain information about a vehicle’s registered owner through legal and authorized methods:
- Law enforcement: Law enforcement officers have access to the DMV database and can obtain information about the registered owner of a vehicle for official purposes.
- Private investigator: If you have a legitimate reason, you can hire a licensed private investigator to conduct a search for the registered owner of a vehicle.
- DMV: The California DMV can release the owner information only in certain situations, such as a court order, subpoena, or law enforcement request.
- Accident report: If you were involved in an accident with the vehicle, the accident report may include the registered owner’s information.
- Parking enforcement: If the vehicle is parked illegally, you can contact the local parking enforcement agency, and they may be able to provide the owner’s information.
Due to federal laws, keep in mind that accessing personal information without proper authorization is illegal and can result in serious legal consequences.
Wherever you are in California, whether you’re in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, or any county or city, it’s essential to run a license plate lookup if you’re considering buying a used vehicle. This step is crucial for ensuring your safety, saving money, and making an informed decision about your purchase. Don’t skip this important process; it takes just a few minutes and can uncover hidden issues or title brands that may impact your buying decision. Protect yourself and your investment by running a license plate lookup today, no matter where you are in California. It’s a small effort that can save you from potential headaches down the road.
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