How To Lookup Tennessee License Plates
Any person can easily look up a Tennessee license plate for free using an online portal where you can enter the plate number and see things like the vehicle year, make, model, trim level, drivetrain, engine type, fuel economy, braking system, manufacturer, transmission, and steering type as well as the MSRP. However, due to strict federal and state privacy laws, you will not see any owner information. There are methods of obtaining those records if you qualify. They will contain more personal details like the vehicle owner's name, address, phone number, driving records and offenses, social security number, driver's license number, and sometimes disability and medical details as well. When requesting motor vehicle records through the Tennessee Department of Revenue Vehicle Services Division, you must supply your name, business or government entity name, address, phone number, and email address.
Tennessee Motor Vehicle Plate Regulations
The state of Tennessee requires that all passenger vehicles and small trucks have one license plate attached to the rear of the vehicle. Other vehicles like motorcycles, trailers, and dealer plates must also have one license plate attached to the rear. Very large trucks must have the license plate attached to the front.
Tennessee requires that owners of the following must register their vehicles with the Tennessee Department of Revenue:
- Motor vehicle
- Motorized bicycle
- Pole trailer that is driven or moved on a highway
Residents can register any of the vehicles listed above at the County Clerk's Office in the town where they reside. Personal vehicle registrations cost only $26.50. The county may charge additional fees on top of that.
When registering, you must have the title, Manufacturer's Statement of Origin, copy of your license plate, and an emissions test (passed).
Options for License Plates in Tennessee
Along with the standard license plates issued to most residents, Tennessee offers more than 100 specialty license plates to choose from. You can get these at your local County Clerk's Office when registering or renewing. The categories to choose from are:
- Antique Auto
- Current Tennessee License Plate
- For Children
- Tennessee Arts Commission
Additionally, the state of Tennessee issues disabled driver plates to anyone who:
- Is confined to a wheelchair
- Walks with difficulty or uncertainty
- Has 20/200 vision or worse with corrective lenses
- Are the parent or legal guardian of a person who is permanently disabled and incapable of operating a motor vehicle
The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Tennessee
Tennessee follows the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) pretty closely. It allows the same individuals and businesses to access motor vehicle records with personal information as the federal law does.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security handles requests, and they do sell records online and in bulk format (for $15,000) for businesses who qualify.
On the request form, you must agree to the following statement: "I (we) am authorized under the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721-2725 (2012), and the Tennessee Uniform Motor Vehicle Records Disclosure Act, TENN. CODE ANN. §§ 55-25-101 through -112 (2012 & Supp. 2013) to obtain the identified records and personal information for the following use(s)". You then must choose one of the allowable uses per the federal DPPA.
Tennessee License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Am I Able to Look Up License Plate Numbers in Tennessee?
Yes, it is entirely legal to look up a license plate in Tennessee if you are looking for detailed information about the car or truck itself. If, however, you are looking for personal details of the vehicle owner, then no. You cannot do that without incurring severe ramifications that may include steep fines and jail time. Unless, of course, you are a qualified business or individual under DPPA rules.
What Will I Need to Request Records?
When requesting records through the Tennessee Department of Revenue Vehicle Services Division, you must supply your name, business or government entity name, address, phone number, and email address. You must explain what information you are requesting, sign and date the form and provide documentation to prove you qualify under DPPA rules for the "use" you check off.
How to Look Up a Tennessee License Plate Using the VIN?
The form mentioned above does not designate which type of search information may be used, so it may be possible to obtain records of a vehicle owner and license plate by using the VIN. However, if not, then you can query the national title registry database or the NHTSA lookup tool to find information on vehicle crash history, statistics, reviews, and recalls.
How to Find the Owner of a License Plate in Tennessee?
Strict privacy laws protect citizens' private information contained in motor vehicle records, and no one without proper authorization is allowed to access or use them. However, if you have an urgent need to locate the owner of a vehicle, try contacting the local law enforcement agency near you.
What are Some Legal Uses of License Plate Information?
Tennessee honors the federal DPPA laws and uses the very same list of allowable uses for access to motor vehicle records. Only certain people and types of businesses can use license plate information for the following purposes:
- Government or law enforcement use
- In connection with motor vehicle or driver safety and theft, motor vehicle emissions, motor vehicle product alterations, recalls, or advisories, performance monitoring of motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts and dealers, motor vehicle market research activities, including survey research, and removal of non-owner records from the original owner records of motor vehicle manufacturers
- In the ordinary course of business to verify information
- Research and statistics
- Insurance purposes
- Impound lots and private toll facilities
- Private investigations
- Any other reason with owner consent
- The owner may obtain a copy
How Do I Look Up Tennessee License Plates for Free?
It is very easy to lookup a Tennessee license plate for free. There are dozens of online portals where you can enter the plate number and see things like the vehicle year, make, model, trim level, drivetrain, engine type, fuel economy, braking system, manufacturer, transmission, and steering type as well as the MSRP.