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California License Plate Lookup


California License Plate LookupYou need to make a California license plate lookup upon buying new or used vehicles in the State. In this way, you can know the thorough history of your future car. Besides, these numbers identify the owner of the automobile. They also prove that the auto is registered.

Nothing is hard. This guide will teach you how to carry out the necessary searching.

Why do I need this?

Let’s understand why it is important to start from car history research before buying it. Getting pre-owned automobiles is not as easy as you imagine. Sometimes you might face a scam.

For example, the owner once damaged that machine and repaired it. It is difficult to notice that from the outside. So, you should make a record of the auto you are going to purchase. Accordingly, you will avoid mistakes.

You may even check for thefts and usage purpose designations (taxi, rental, police).
You must perform this by a VIN or license plate. Records are public and official. There are many search platforms where you may find it.

Where to request information?

You may apply for full information about the machine registration, crashes, DL, and OL. DMV maintains that statistical data. To request you should give a fee of $5. There are four methods to do this:

  • On the website
    For this reason, you should fill out an online application letter. For driver and car reports, there are separate samples.
  • By mail
    In this case, the platform offers two variants of data: your own and someone else’s record. You are to fill different forms for both goals, including the receipt of the payment. Then send the packet to the Department’s postal address.
  • In-person
    The process is almost the same. Only you should complete the application letter by hand. After that, take it to the nearest branch office paying the fee. If you look for your personal information, they give it during your appointment. If you search for another individual’s details, you have to wait for headquarters’ approval. Indeed, you must have a DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act). It is an acceptable reason to get such a report. Immediately after acceptance, you will receive what you have asked.
  • By call

When applying don’t miss to involve:

  • Full name
  • Quantity of copies you want
  • Business name(if available)
  • Record title
  • Tel. No.
  • Location(street)

Obtaining Vanity-plates

Driving a machine legally implies the latter’s enrollment. The process consists of several acts. First, you are to submit an online application. However, you have to visit the office yourself too. Also, you are to provide the necessary papers, involving:

  • Completed REG 343 form
  • Your car title and Odometer Mileage(if the vehicle is less than 10 y/o)
  • Valid Smog Certificate(mandatory for more than 4 y/o machines)
  • Evidence of insurance

The last step is sending the fee of $46. Within 4-6 weeks you will receive it by mail.


California has started to require custom plates since 1905. DMV issues numerous versions to personalize numbers and promote causes like:

  • Environment
  • Art and education
  • Cancer awareness

Two-side(front and rear) unique numbers are mandatory for the majority of automobiles. This includes all passenger transports, except for trailers and motorcycles. For those models, 1 rear metal tablet is enough.

In CA, you can book and acquire various types of plates, such as:


This is for passenger vehicles, trading and ordinary motorcycles, permanent and park trailers. You can obtain it in 3 cases:

  • Purchasing a new auto
  • Replacing your old numbers(when stolen, lost, or damaged)
  • Handing over special interest vanity-plates

      Special interest

This is available for caravans, commercial machines, motorcycles, and autos. It is an awesome opportunity to support certain causes you take care of. Paying fees you donate to charity and become a good example for other drivers on the roadway.

Carrying these tablets on your car you spread the message of donation importance. Obtainable versions are in personalized(combination of numbers and letters) and sequential styles.


They are to emphasize achievements, status and commemorate occupations, historical events. The main categories are:

  • Unique(includes livery, veteran or disabled person, HAM radio, exempt)
  • Specific recognition(Family, Division of Valor, Purple Heart, Gold Star, etc.)
  • Occupational(dismantlers and dealers)
  • Legislative(governmental bodies like Senate and assembly)
  • Apportioned(power unit and redistributed)

Some people confuse the second type with this one. Actually, they are completely different. The third kind does not have any association with charitable organizations.

      Placards and Decals

Some models of transport require decals or stickers instead. This generally includes bicycles and some other samples:

  • DP parking placards
  • Tow or auxiliary dolly
  • Off-freeway motorbikes

Sizes and Colors

Like other regions here, sizes are not bigger than 12X6 or smaller than 7X4. For automobiles and trailers, you should purchase 12X6. The 7X4 size is suitable for motorbikes. By the way, early issued ones have 8 X 5 dimensions. This mostly refers to the period before 1970.

And what refers to colors now you have 2 options: yellow and black. Yellow metals bear black characters and on black, there is gold lettering. Previous options were more colorful.
Regardless of color, each of them costs $50.

How to acquire black plates in CA?

Currently used black metal tablets are the latest editions of the early design. The Department produced these Legacy called models from 1963-1969. DMV lets us buy and personalize replicas of vintage molds created in the 1960s.

This is possible if there are sufficient requests every year. To acquire them initially you should pay a $50 fee. Annual renewal costs $40. You should place an order on the website. Don’t forget to attach the check of payment payable to the Department too.

Status Checking

By checking the status you may know whether that combination of digits is busy or not. Also, this allows us to see who is the holder. And it is fully legal to get the holder’s personal data, such as:

  • Social security certificate
  • Location
  • Name
  • Contacts

Though such details are private, some agencies, insurance companies, and law enforcement officers have access to them. Especially after an accident, if someone hits your vehicle and runs away.

But sometimes we just need to look over the availability of digits’ sequence. Does anybody earn it? Or we can still take it. Let’s see the steps we are to complete:

  1. Call the DMV or visit the nearest branch in person.
  2. Ask them to allow a meeting with the associate. There is no need to schedule in advance. Yet, you have to stand in line and wait for the representative who processes the search.
  3. Tell the associate the exact sequence you want to find out. He inquires with the federal database about the material. Then he informs you about availability or non-existent. If it is still free, you can book right there, or order online.

Temporary Custom Plates

You can use a temporary tablet during the period you are waiting to take a permanent one. They are valid for 3 months. Indeed, before that, you must have accomplished all the payments. Extending terms costs an extra $50 regardless of circumstances and reasons.


The law demands to refresh the registration every year. Each time you give $40. Before you begin check the availability of:

  • VIN(the last five digits)
  • HIN
  • Renewal note, verifying your current address
  • Payment details

In case of transactions via debit or credit cards, they will charge up to an additional 2.1% of the price. Direct transfers from bank accounts do not keep an extra amount.

Placards and disabled people parking permits should be renewed separately.


Basically, this refers to conversions from an automobile to another that you earn. If you bring it from other states, you are to:

  1. introduce REG 343 form;
  2. show out-of-state title and registration;
  3. hold proof of insurance;
  4. present valid Smog document;
  5. pay for the provided service.

You may count the amount using the special calculator suggested by the Department.

Ownership Change

Upon changing the ownership, parties(seller and buyer) must report within 10 days. Cases involve gifts, donations, inheritance, satisfaction with the loan, etc.

You are to present the following documents:

  • REG 227, 5, 4008, and 226 forms
  • Statement of erasure and facts
  • Odometer disclosure (Omit if your vehicle is older than 10 years, commercial transport with GVW of 16000 pounds.)


Mail address:
DMV Info Release Unit
MS G199
PO Box 944247
Sacramento, CA 94244-2470
Phone: (916) 657-8098

Check how can you search for a license plate in several states: Maryland, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.