How To Lookup New York License Plates
When looking up a New York license plate for free, you can see basic vehicle information like the engine type, manufacturer, make, model, etc. However, if you want additional details, you must comply with state and federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws. If you do have a legitimate reason for looking up a New York license plate, you can get additional information. For example, the owner's name, address, phone number, driver's license number, social security number, date of birth, citations, and other vehicle offense history (including DUIs) as well as medical and other details. When requesting, you must use their special form and provide your contact details as well as some driver information.
New York Vehicle License Plate Regs
The state of New York requires all vehicle owners to have a set of two license plates, "one on the front and one on the rear of such vehicle, each securely fastened so as to prevent the same from swinging and placed, whenever reasonably possible, not higher than forty-eight inches and not lower than twelve inches from the ground."
All vehicles in New York must be registered. New York State clarifies by saying, "Your ‘registration' is the sticker placed on your windshield and the paper registration certificate that you must keep in your vehicle." You do not need to put the registration in your name, and it may cover more than one person.
Vehicle registration renewals can be processed at any Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office, through the mail, or online if you have the proper paperwork. New York does require proof of insurance when registering and renewing.
You cannot renew a vehicle registration in New York if it:
- is suspended or revoked.
- is expired for more than one year.
- has not been inspected in the past 12 months.
New York Special License Plate Options
New York offers its residents the standard dark blue and yellow license plate or a variety of others to choose from. You can also order personalized plates (for an additional fee) where you get to choose the characters. Some license plate options in New York are:
- I Love NY Adventure Plates.
- Military and Veterans.
- Counties and Regions of NYS.
- Colleges, Fraternities, Sororities.
- Motorcycle Plates.
- Historial and Vintage Plates.
- Personalized Plates.
- Empire Gold Plates.
New York also has special plates for disabled Americans who need them.
What is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in New York?
New York follows the federal law Driver's Privacy Protection Act. New York claims you must have a permissible use according to the federal DPPA laws to request records. They further explain that:
"The DPPA also regulates how a recipient of DMV records can share information with another person or organization. The law allows the DMV to release personal information only for the purposes that the DPPA defines."
The state of New York defines personal information as:
- social security number (SSN).
- Client Identification Number (CID).
- address (but not the 5-digit ZIP code).
- telephone number.
- medical information.
- disability information.
They do not consider the following information to be private, and therefore it is publicly accessible:
- traffic accidents.
- traffic violations.
- status of a driver's license.
New York License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Legit to Lookup License Plate Numbers in New York?
It is legal to lookup license plate numbers if your search yields only basic information. If, however, you also receive personal details, then you are subject to strict state and federal DPPA laws about access and usage of that information. However, New York does have a Freedom of Information Law Office that handles all public records requests for motor vehicle records that are not covered under DPPA laws.
What Information Do I Need When Requesting Records?
Using the official Request for Certified DMV Records request form, you must supply your information (name, address, and phone number). You have to sign the form as well and provide some information about the vehicle or driver such as name, and date of birth, or vehicle details like the license plate number, year, make and model or VIN. You must pay $10 for each type of report you request. You must also choose the "permissible use" for which you are requesting the records.
How to Look Up a New York License Plate Using the VIN?
You can easily look up a NY license plate using the VIN and the form mentioned above. The search will cover license plate details or VIN but their way, you are still subject to DPPA laws when requesting and using those records if they contain personal information.
Is it Legal for Me to Find the Owner of a License Plate in New York?
New York does not let the general public look up someone via their license plate unless you have a valid reason. However, if you fall into one of the categories such as an insurance agent, employer, or private investigator, then you can use state-offered resources or any third-party online portal to request and retrieve records, even those that contain personal details.
What Can I Legally Do With License Plate Information?
The state of New York does have its own Driver's Privacy Protection Act, but it also closely follows the federal DPPA. Therefore, when requesting records, they require that you have a "permissible use." Some of those listed on their request form are:
- For use in any civil, criminal, and arbitral court proceeding.
- Use by an insurance company or agent.
- Towing companies and impound lots to notify owners their vehicles are there.
- An employer with the employee's consent.
- A business in the normal course of business to verify information.
- Government or law enforcement use.
- Use required under NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, Article 19A - Special Requirements for Bus Drivers. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(14)).
- Use required under NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, Article 19B - Special Requirements for Commercial Motor Carriers. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(14)).
- Use in matters of motor vehicle or driver safety. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Use in matters of motor vehicle theft. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Use in matters of motor vehicle emissions. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Use in matters of motor vehicle product alterations, recalls, or advisories. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Use in performance monitoring of motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts and dealers. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Use in motor vehicle market research activities, including survey research. (18 U.S.C. §2721 (b)(2)).
- Private toll companies.
- Personal use by the vehicle owner.
How Can I Lookup New York License Plates for Free?
Just about anyone can look up a New York license plate online for free. However, the information gleaned will only be basic vehicle details like year, make, and mode.