How To Lookup Texas License Plates
Using a public records portal, you can enter a Texas license plate number and see vehicle-related information like the year, make, model, trim level, engine type, transmission, manufacturer, drivetrain, and MSRP. However, you can also order a full report online that may give you the owner's name, address, phone number, social security number, driver's license number, photographs, and more details. To get a full license plate or motor vehicle report, you must qualify under strict federal and state privacy laws. If you violate these laws, you will face serious consequences such as years of prison time and steep fines. You may also have to pay damages to the person you harmed. Using a government form, you can request records but will need to supply your contact details and as much information about the owner as possible.
Texas Vehicle License Plate Laws
In the state of Texas, you must have two license plates on your vehicle at all times (or the police can stop you and give you a citation). One must be on the front and one on the rear of your vehicle.
Texans must register their motor vehicles every year. You can renew up to 90 days before expiration (the last day of the month on your sticker) or six months after expiration (as long as you don't have any citations). You can renew online, in person at any county approved substation, or through the mail. You must have a passing inspection sticker before you apply to register or renew your vehicle registration. When registering online, you qualify for a $1 discount.
A basic registration for most cars and trucks costs $50.75. Pickup or larger trucks must pay $54. It costs $45 to register a trailer and motorcycles and mopeds cost $30 a year for the registration. The county may also charge you a local fee, and if you order anything other than the standard license plates, you will pay higher fees then also.
Texas Specialty License Plate Options
Along with the standard license plate offered by Texas, residents may also purchase one of the dozens of specialty plates or personalized license plates where they get to pick the lettering. The state uses an online service called myplates.com, where you can check the availability of vanity plates. Some of the categories for specialty license plates include:
- Colleges and Universities.
- High Schools.
- Military & Veterans.
- My Plates Colors & Themes.
- Other Vehicle Types.
A few license plate options to choose from are:
- Air Force.
- American Legion.
- Cotton Boll.
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
- Disabled veteran plates (all branches).
- Dr. Pepper.
- Girl Scouts.
- Korean War.
- Lone Star State.
- March of Dimes.
- Organ Donor.
- Texas Rangers.
What Does the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Texas Do?
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is the entity in charge of motor vehicle records and enforcing both federal and state Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws. The Texas Motor Vehicle Records Disclosure Act is consistent with the federal DPPA. The Department of Motor Vehicles website states:
"Federal law prohibits the TxDMV from disclosing or confirming any of your personal information to the general public. This law, the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), makes it illegal for the general public, including the media, to obtain, publish or confirm personal information about you from the state motor vehicle database. The law does provide exceptions for certain entities, such as courts and police.
However, be aware that other businesses may collect and sell information on you and your vehicle. Generally, these are motor vehicle-related businesses that capture information in their computer systems. These businesses are not covered under federal and state privacy protection laws."
Texas License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Legit to Lookup License Plate Numbers in Texas?
Yes, it is completely legal to look up a license plate number in Texas to find out about the vehicle itself. However, it is not legal to just search a license plate to find owner information or personal details. Motor vehicle records contain personal and sensitive information that only eligible businesses and individuals may access and use for legitimate purposes.
What Information Do I Need to Request Records?
When requesting motor vehicle records through the state of Texas, you must use the form DR-1. First, you have to select the type of record with the corresponding fee. Then fill out your name, address, phone number, and company information (if applicable). You also must supply a phone number and the person's information you are searching (name, driver's license number, and date of birth). In some cases, you will need signed consent.
How to Look Up a Texas License Plate Using the VIN?
Although the state does not offer a way to search license plate data using a VIN, there are other online public records databases and portals where you can. For example, the NHTSA search tool or the national title registry. You can use either one of those to enter a VIN and find out all about the car or truck plus information about vehicle crash history and outstanding recalls.
How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Texas?
Texas does not allow just anyone to look up the owner of a license plate online. Only if you qualify via strict DPPA laws are you able to obtain personal details about the owner of a vehicle. If you have a legitimate reason for needing to locate the owner of a license plate in Texas, you can ask the local police for help.
What Are Some Allowable Purposes For Looking Up License Plate Information?
Texas follows the federal DPPA laws pretty closely. On their records request form, they outline the list of allowable uses for personal details contained in motor vehicle records. These privacy laws guard access to and use of these records. They may be used for only the following purposes:
- For motor vehicle safety, emissions, and recalls.
- Government or law enforcement use.
- Civil and criminal law cases.
- Towing companies.
- Insurance use.
- Business use for verifying information.
- Research and statistics.
- Private investigations.
- Private tolls.
- For credit.
- Anyone with a signed consent form.
How Do I Look Up Texas License Plates for Free?
You can look up a Texas license plate for free easily through one of the many online portals. The information you will see will be vehicle-related such as the year, make, model, trim level, engine type, transmission, manufacturer, drivetrain, and MSRP.