Why Use a Licensed PI for your License Plate Search?

Docusearch License Plate Search
Artwork courtesy of Jim Beran

If you have a license plate number and are looking to find the owner of the vehicle, you probably signed online to see if there is a free license plate search available. There are countless websites that promise to perform a license plate lookup, but the truth is that only a select few provide real up-to-date results, and a real license plate lookup is never 100% free.

Why is a real license plate search online never free?
There are laws that protect driver registration information from being publicly available, so in order to run a license plate lookup, it needs to be processed directly with a state DMV and there is a processing fee.

But I’ve seen websites that offer free reverse license plate lookups.

There are a lot of scam websites that make misleading or downright false promises. Typically, these websites do one of two things.

They might promise to give you results, but the results they end up sending you are not current and they do not contain much useful information. In cases like this, they have usually purchased records from database wholesalers who sell data that is often several years old. A lot of these sites also make it sound like they are going to give you the results for free, until the search is actually run. Then they send you an email saying they’ve located a record and you can purchase it for a small fee. Who wants to pay for an outdated, incomplete record?

Other sites try to get you to pay for a subscription fee, often promising “unlimited searches”. There is no such thing as unlimited license plate searches of current vehicle owner information. These sites trick people into paying for a subscription, and then customers are sent links to other websites that either require more money or send out those bogus results mentioned above.

So where exactly can I go online to run a license plate search?

If you want to run a license plate search in order to find or verify the owner of a vehicle, you’ll want to find licensed private investigators that can purchase a license plate search on your behalf with the state DMV. Licensed private investigators are subject to regulation, so you can be confident that the results are real and you won’t be ripped off.

Docusearch is America’s premier online provider of online investigative solutions and you can order a license plate search directly through its website for a one-time $39 fee (Some states charge more). The results are typically provided within one business day and they come directly from state DMVs, so the results you receive are the most up-to-date available.

15 Comments to “Why Use a Licensed PI for your License Plate Search?”

  1. admin


    We can only return the current owner information for the State of California and not previous owner information.

  2. Natraj

    Do we need to have a reason, can we find out without a reason. My gf is cheating on me with the guy who owns the car. I have number plate. So let me know

  3. admin

    Federal and state laws that protect privacy require you to have a permissible purpose and certify that purpose when ordering a license plate search. Checking up on a girlfriend is definitely not a permissible purpose. For additional information, please read this article: http://www.docusearch.com/dppa-permissible-purpose.html

  4. Trollo Garbach

    Your website is carefully worded to suggest that a private investigator so I can “be confident that the results are real”.

    Then your next paragraph says “…you can order a license plate search directly through its website for a one-time $39 fee…”

    You are clearly talking to me, and not a private investigator so I assume that I can use your website to search a license plate myself, as long as I have a permissible reason.

    Am I correct in assuming I can run a plate check myself without having a PI license, and that your company will handle the rest for me (i.e. using a PI to run the check)?

  5. admin

    We are licensed private investigators, so yes. You can order (yourself) through our web site, so long as you have a permissible purpose.

  6. Gloria

    If I have the first three characters of the license plate (not sure about 4th or remainder) and the color of the car, and make, can you find the vehicle?

  7. admin

    Sorry, we cannot search partial license plates under any circumstances.

  8. Jim

    I am the victim of road rage – the driver of the vehicle in question threw a bottle at my car, causing damage. I have filed a police report with the local law enforcement and gave them the license plate number. I do not wish to file a comprehensive claim with my insurance but rather would like to obtain the owner information of the vehicle in order to file a claim for the damages through their insurance. Is that a permissible purpose?

  9. admin

    The purpose for the search would have to fall within one of the permissible purposes listed on http://www.docusearch.com/dppa-permissible-purpose.html. Unfortunately, we cannot advise or consult which permissible is acceptable for your situation.

  10. Angie

    Can you do a license plate search in a state not listed eg. South Carolina ?

  11. admin

    We only offer license plate lookups in states that we have direct access to the current DMV records. Unfortunately, South Carolina is not a state that we service.

  12. Bombom

    I’m trying to check who is the owner of a vehicle that my ex is driving. We both remarried and far beyond of playing the jealousy game. The reason i want to know is b/c he loves to hide assets, hide his properties, work under the table to avoid paying the ammount of child support he has to pay. He loves to hide under his wife previous assets before marriage lying under oath saying it belongs to her. I have gained all the proof from public records (people forget those) and I already gave it all to my lawyer. I wouldnt care of CS if my children were healthy enough so I could go to work but sadly they arent. Im their caregiver. I just want to make sure that I pass or anything someone will be responsable for them other than the government. One is already 18 and it breaks my heart he is like a 13 year..

  13. Docusearch

    Sounds like you have a permissible purpose. Simply select the appropriate DPPA Permissible Purpose on the order form.

  14. Jack

    Is it a $39 fee for each time or do you have an annual or monthly price where we can look up as many as we want

  15. Docusearch

    The $39.00 fee is one-time for one license plate search. There is no re-occurring expense.

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