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Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup

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License Plate Search

  • Make
  • Vehicle Details
  • Modal
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  • Year
  • Recalls and Defects
  • Public Records
  • Vehicle Identification Number
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  • And More
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License Plate Lookup in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania license plate lookup is the process of using a vehicle's license plate number and state to retrieve information on the vehicle and its owner. License plate lookup tools are available in Pennsylvania. Anyone can use license plate lookup tools to obtain information about a vehicle before buying it to negotiate better prices and avoid buying stolen cars. When a person conducts a license plate lookup in Pennsylvania, they may find vehicle registration information, title information, mileage, and odometer readings. License plate lookup can also return details about selected Pennsylvania traffic records, a vehicle's make, model, year of manufacture, inspection, accident history, maintenance history, and available warranty.

There are no special requirements for looking up Pennsylvania license plates. A person can perform a free license plate lookup in Pennsylvania by checking online databases that provide such services. Alternatively, they can look up a license plate from the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) or hire a private investigator. Paid license plate lookup services require subscriptions and return current and accurate information on a vehicle and its owner. Conversely, free license plate lookup services usually return incomplete and sometimes inaccurate data.

What is a Pennsylvania License Plate?

A license plate is a plastic or metal sign that publicly shows the official letters or numbers that identify a motor vehicle registered in the state indicated on the license plate. Title 67 Section 47(2)(a) of the Pennsylvania Code requires vehicles to have one license plate on the rear, except truck tractors which display theirs in front.

The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides different categories of license plates, including:

  • Standard issue license plates: These are issued for passenger cars and have three colors, yellow, white, and blue.
  • Military license plates: These are issued to persons serving in the United States military. They display the standard license plate colors, white, blue, and yellow, and may show the type of medal the car owner earned in military service. They may also indicate the car owner's service unit or the country they served. For example, military license plates may display a bronze star, combat action medal, or combat medical badge. There are various categories of military license plates in Pennsylvania, including:
    • U.S. military service license plates
    • U.S. military and Pennsylvania National Guard license plates
    • U.S. military combat registration license plate
    • Veteran of an allied foreign country license plates
    • Pearl harbor survivor license plates
    • U.S. military veteran license plates
  • Special fund license plates: These are issued to persons involved in special fund projects and indicate the project type. The types of license plates under this category include:
    • Wild resource conservation fund license plates
    • Pennsylvania zoological council fund license plates
    • Preserve our heritage license plates
    • Honoring our veterans license plates
    • Honoring our women veterans license plates
    • Honoring our veterans motorcycle license plates
    • Pennsylvania monuments license plates
    • Pennsylvania share the road license plates
    • Pennsylvania distracted driving awareness license plates
    • Pennsylvania distracted driving awareness motorcycle license plates
  • Special organization license plates: These license plates are for members of specific organizations and allow them to advocate their interests. They are available for passenger cars, trailers, motorcycles, motorhomes, and trucks with a maximum gross weight of 14,000 pounds. These license plates are manufactured in the standard license plate colors, white, blue, and yellow. The organization's logo or emblem appears on the left side of the license plate, while its name shows at the bottom.
  • Specialty license plates: These license plates are for Pennsylvania parents and guardians who wish to use their license plates to pass educational messages. “” is printed on the bottom of the license plate while the state's name ‘Pennsylvania' appears on top. The license plate also has a logo on the left, depicting a red inverted triangle with the words “teen driver” appearing within the triangle in yellow letters. It also features the phrase “please be cautious” on the sides of the triangle, in blue letters.
  • Personalized license plates: The DMV issues these license plates to car owners who wish to select their license plate numbers. Persons with personalized license plates can have a maximum of seven characters containing letters, numbers, or a combination of both.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues license plates to vehicle owners. New Pennsylvania residents are required to apply for license plates within 20 days of relocating to the state. To obtain a license plate from the DMV, a person must:

  • Have a valid Pennsylvania identification like a driver's license.
  • Submit their out-of-state title to the DMV.
  • Submit a completed Form MV-1 (Application for Certificate of Title Form); the DMV does not make this form available online. Only authorized agents like notaries, messenger services, and dealers can complete the form. An applicant can find authorized agents close to them online by visiting the DMV's locations information center.
  • Provide a completed Form MV-4ST (Application for Registration Form); this form is not available online. It must be completed by an authorized agent.
  • Show proof of Pennsylvania vehicle insurance.
  • Submit proof of safety inspection; this must be completed within 10 days preceding the license plate application.
  • Provide vehicle identification number (VIN) verification.
  • Provide an odometer disclosure statement.
  • Provide lien holder information, if applicable.
  • Show proof of emissions inspection, if applicable; a person can check online to know if an emissions inspection is required in their county or call (800) 265-0921
  • Pay the required fees via money order or check, payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A person should submit all the required documentation and fees at any DMV office. Anyone with license plate-related inquiries can contact the Pennsylvania DMV by calling (717) 412-5300.

Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates

Passenger license plates are for vehicles used in transporting people and property for non-profit purposes. Commercial license plates are attached to motor vehicles used for business purposes. Title 75 Section 1603 of the Pennsylvania Code defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle used in transporting property or passengers if:

  • It is designed to transport 16 passengers or more, including the driver
  • It is a school bus
  • It transports hazardous materials and is required to have a placard
  • Its gross weight is 26,001 pounds or more

In Pennsylvania, commercial motor vehicles do not include antique cars, trailer homes, agricultural vehicles, or motorized construction equipment such as motor graders, excavators, tractors, and bulldozers. The requirements for obtaining passenger license plates in Pennsylvania are the same for obtaining license plates for new residents. To get a commercial license plate, a person should execute the instructions outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Pennsylvania

A person searching for a vehicle owner in Pennsylvania can conduct a license plate lookup. This search reveals specific details about the vehicle owner, such as their phone number. A person can run such information through an online search tool like a phone number lookup to retrieve information about the vehicle owner.

A person can request license plate information from the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by completing a Form DL-135 (Request for Vehicle Information Form) and submitting it to the DMV. The DMV makes confidential information available to specific persons and agencies like court officials, law enforcement officers, government agencies, insurance companies, and the license plate owner's employers. Nevertheless, a person can conduct a license plate search using online resources that offer free license plate lookup services.

Third-party aggregate sites are a convenient alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.

Pennsylvania License Plate Renewal

The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles license plate renewal. Pennsylvania license plates expire after one or two years, depending on the amount paid during registration. The DMV provides the renewal schedules for different motor vehicle types and the associated fees in Form MV-70S (Bureau of Motor Vehicles Schedule of Fees). The DMV also mails license plate renewal notices to vehicle owners before expiration. Pennsylvania license plate renewal typically takes 10 days.

To renew a license plate in Pennsylvania, a person needs their:

  • Vehicle's emissions test, if applicable
  • Car insurance information
  • Vehicle title
  • Vehicle's odometer reading
  • License plate number
  • Renewal fees
  • Completed Form MV-140 (Request for Registration Form)

A person can renew their Pennsylvania license plate through any of the following channels:

  • In-person: Vehicle owners renewing their Pennsylvania license plates in person should take their renewal notices, fees, and other required documents to any DMV office.
  • Online: Persons renewing online should visit the DMV's online portal and provide the required information and fees.
  • Mail: A vehicle owner using this method should mail the required documents and fees to:

Bureau of Motor Vehicles
1101 South Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104-2516

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes, anyone can look up a Pennsylvania license plate using its VIN. The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) links a vehicle's VIN with its license plate during registration.

Pennsylvania VIN Number Lookup

VIN (vehicle identification number) is an identifying code assigned by vehicle manufacturers that distinguishes a vehicle from others. A Pennsylvania VIN lookup returns information about a vehicle, such as its odometer readings, salvage history, fire damage, and owner histories. A person can conduct a VIN lookup using free online tools. Vehicles usually have their VINs stamped on their engine blocks, dashboards, or driver's side door pillar.

Can Civilians Lookup License Plates in Pennsylvania?

Yes, civilians can look up information about license plates issued in Pennsylvania. However, the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) (18 U.S. Code §§ 2721-2725) makes it illegal for the Pennsylvania DMV to disclose a registered vehicle owner's personal data unless it is for a permissible purpose, such as for a civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding in a local, state, or federal court.

The DPPA also sets restrictions on how entities can share motor vehicle records obtained from the DMV with others. Per the law, the other person(s) or party(s) must have permissible use (described under 18 U.S. Code § 2721(b)). Otherwise, the receiver must remove personal information from the record and disseminate only non-personal details to the other side.

What Do Police See When They Run Your Plates in Pennsylvania?

Law enforcement often requires investigating individuals and criminal incidents to administer the law where appropriate. As a result, the police have access to law enforcement databases that contain a wealth of information on civilians, including information related to motor vehicles registered or operated in the state.

Federal law, the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, identifies law enforcement activity as one of the acceptable grounds for releasing a registered owner's personal information. Therefore, when the police run a person's license plates in Pennsylvania, they can obtain the following personal data about the registered owner:

  • Address
  • Name
  • Medical and disability information
  • Social Security Number
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN
  • Photograph
  • Telephone number

The police can also access vehicle-related information (which can also be obtained by the public), such as the driver's license status, title, the vehicle's registration expiration, vehicle specifications, accident history, etc.

Free License Plate Lookup in Pennsylvania

A convenient way to carry out a free license plate lookup in Pennsylvania is to utilize the services of a third-party service provider. Numerous third-party websites offer users a license plate lookup service at no expense. An interested person can locate these websites with a quick internet search and obtain the desired information within minutes. However, a user may be limited to basic vehicle information, and a record's accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed. Thus, verifying one's data with an official source, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), is often recommended.

Note that a Form DL-135 request to the Pennsylvania DMV for license plate information costs money ($14 per record) on the requester's part.

How to Search for Ticket by License Plate in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania courts resolve traffic tickets issued to offending motorists. Thus, a person who wants to find an unpaid traffic ticket can utilize a presiding court's traffic ticket payment website, visit the court, or call a designated number.

However, while the state court system has a unified web portal where people can view/pay traffic tickets to the courts, one cannot search for a ticket using a license plate number. The search options provided on the site include citation number, docket number, or an offender's last and first name. Nonetheless, those searching for a parking ticket administered by a parking authority or bureau may find a "Search by License Plate" feature on the agency's online payment site.