New York License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in New York

A New York license plate lookup is a search conducted by entering a vehicle's license plate in a search tool. Typically, the search tool returns specific information for the vehicle to which the license plate has been registered. A license plate lookup may be done for a variety of reasons. Asides from finding who owns a vehicle, it is also commonly used to obtain selected New York traffic records and information about a vehicle's history when someone wants to buy the vehicle with the license plate. By obtaining a vehicle history, the person performing the search may verify the problems with the vehicle and hence make an informed decision about purchasing and the fair cost. A license plate search may also help uncover the make and model of a vehicle.

You can perform a license plate lookup in New York through the State Department of Motor Vehicle or third-party vendors. A license plate lookup using the DMV search tool typically attracts a fee, while many third-party vendors offer the service for free. By using the DMV search tool, you are sure to obtain verified and updated information about the license plate. On the other hand, you cannot always ascertain the credibility of the information obtained from third-party search providers offering the service for free.

What is a New York License Plate?

New York license plates, also called vehicle plates, are metal plates attached to vehicles or trailers for official identification purposes. Vehicle plates are typically obtained when vehicle owners register their automobiles for the first time. The license plate number is used to get information about the vehicle's make, model, color, year of production, engine size, registered owner's name and address, and other essential information.

According to Section 402 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, a person may not operate, drive, or park a vehicle unless issued a distinguishing number (license plate). The license plate may not be visibly displayed; it must be firmly affixed to the vehicle's front and back. License plates are issued by the New York Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). The DMV issues two vehicle plates to vehicles in the state, except for trailers, motorcycles, and the tractor unit of tractor-trailers.

New York residents looking to obtain license plates may obtain a standard series plate, personalized plate, picture plate, passenger license plate, or commercial license plate type. The state also has several state codes for license plates as contained in the state license plate type list.

How Do I Get a License Plate in New York?

A New York license plate is issued when the person who owns or leases a vehicle applies to register and title the vehicle at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office. The forms and documents required for vehicle registration are dependent on the type of vehicle you intend to register. Several DMV forms are available online and can be printed out. You will be required to pay a fee during the registration process. The fee depends on the weight of the vehicle where you reside. While registering a vehicle for the first time, the total fees typically include:

  • The sales tax
  • A title certificate fee
  • A vehicle plate fee or registration fee
  • A vehicle use tax
  • Either a 1- or 2-year registration fee, depending on the registration type

You may pay the required fee using credit cards, prepaid cards and debit cards that do not require a PIN, cash, or a personal check or money order made payable to "Commissioner of Motor Vehicles." It is also permitted for applicants to split their payments between cash and check if desired. The New York government website provides a cost estimate tool for users to calculate the registration fee that will be required.

The New York DMV recommends that applicants are familiarized with its Documents Guide to ensure that they have correct proofs of identification and other documents before applying to the DMV. Persons applying at the DMV offices in NYC, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Onondaga, or Albany Counties may make application reservations online.

At the appointment with the local DMV office, applicants must have with them:

After the registration at the DMV, the applicant will receive registration documents and 1 or 2 vehicle plates. For more inquiries about license plates, contact the DMV Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. by calling the DMV Call Centers (518) 486-9786. The state DMV office is located at:

NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
6 Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12220
Phone: (212) 645-5550

For DMV office locations in various counties in New York, use the DMV County Office locator tool on the DMV website.

Passenger License Plates vs. Commercial License Plates

Passenger vehicles are classified in New York depending on how the vehicles are constructed or how the constructions are modified. The vehicle registration class does not depend on how the vehicles are used. Hence, you may not register a passenger vehicle as a commercial vehicle even if you use it for business. Note that the New York DMV does not determine the class of a vehicle before or during vehicle registration. The registrant is obliged to register the vehicle in the correct class.

The registration process for passenger and commercial license plates is the same except for the vehicle registration and the use tax fees. The New York website contains the commercial vehicle registration fee schedule and use tax chart (MV-202C) and the passenger vehicle registration fee schedule and use tax chart (MV-202).

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in New York?

One quick method to unveil the owner of a license plate in New York is to conduct a search on the DMV database using the available license plate number. While applying for a license plate for a vehicle in New York, applicants are required to register and title the vehicle owned or leased. During the application process, the registrant will submit personal information, which will be maintained by DMV and may be used later to identify the owner of the vehicle.

To identify the license plate owner in New York, you may conduct a lookup by searching the DMV records through the DIAL-IN system provided by the Department.

Third-party aggregate sites are a reliable 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.

New York License Plate Renewal

Renewing your license plate in New York requires renewing your vehicle registration. Typically, you will get a renewal notice from the New York DMV before your vehicle registration expires. As a prerequisite to renewing your vehicle registration, you will need to have a safety inspection and emissions test conducted for your vehicle. A safety inspection is required every 12 months.

Note that you cannot renew vehicle registrations for:

  • Semi-trailers with 6-year registrations
  • Rental vehicles
  • Vehicles weighing 55,000 lbs. or more
  • For-hire vehicles, such as taxis, livery vehicles, and buses
  • Vehicles with an ambulance
  • Vehicles with an apportioned registration issued under the IRP (International Registration Plan)
  • Vehicles that require the registrant to provide evidence of insurance, a tax certificate, or another document for each renewal
  • Vehicles that are exempt from providing proof of registration fees payment
  • Vehicles with suspended or revoked registrations
  • Vehicles with registrations that have expired for more than one year
  • Vehicles that have not been inspected in the previous 12 months

You may renew your vehicle registration online, by mail, or at the DMV office. To renew online, you need the registration (plate number) and the class of registration, the last name of the person on the registration, and a credit card or pin-less debit card. The fee is stated on the renewal notice and displayed on the screen when you renew online.

To renew your vehicle registration by mail, mail the bottom section of the registration renewal notice (OP-3 or MV-3) to the address listed on the notice. Ensure to include a personal check or money order made payable to "Commission of Motor Vehicle" for the appropriate fee.

If you did not receive a notice (OP-3 or MV-3), you may use the Vehicle Registration or Title Application (MV-82) form. If the exact fee for the renewal is not known, send a check payable to "Commissioner of Motor Vehicles," but do not fill out the amount on the check. Mail completed MV-82 form and your payment to:

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
Utica Processing Center
P.O. Box 359
Utica, NY 13503

To renew your vehicle administration at the DMV office, submit your registration renewal notice (OP-3 or MV-3) and payment to a DMV office. If you do not have a notice, you may complete the MV-82 form instead of the MV-3 or OP-3 form.

Vehicle registration expiry dates are printed on the registration documents and the renewal notice mailed out to registrants. Persons in the Armed Forces or those returning from active military duties may be granted more time to renew their vehicle registrations.

Renewing vehicle registrations early does not change the new expiration date for the new registration. All motorcycle registrations in New York expire on April 30. Hence, motorcycle registrants must renew motorcycle registrations for the current year before they may renew for the next year.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes. You can look up a license plate number if you know the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) associated with the plate number through the New York DMV DIAL-IN search tool. Typical users of the search portal are attorneys, insurance and private investigators, process servers, and building security personnel.

There is a fee for searching the DMV records in accordance with the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Commercial organizations, private persons, and not-for-profit organizations must pay a fee to use the search tool. Each search using the tool costs $7. Public organizations, its officers, volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services, and legal aid bureaus or societies or private entities acting in accordance with Section 722 of the New York State County Law are exempt from the search fee.

VIN Number Lookup

A VIN lookup is a check for the Vehicle Identification Number of a vehicle. All vehicles are assigned a VIN at manufacture. These numbers serve as unique identifiers for any vehicle. The VIN is typically a 17-character code made up of numbers and letters. VINs may be located on the vehicle on:

  • The front part of the vehicle's frame
  • Door Jamb on the driver's side
  • Doorpost on the driver's side
  • Engine block
  • Hood underside

The VIN may also be found in the vehicle's owner manual, insurance paperwork, police reports, and records provided by auto repair shops.

A VIN lookup can help you obtain information that may be useful in the following situations:

  • Obtaining information about where the vehicle is manufactured
  • Registration of a new vehicle or registration of an existing vehicle in a new state
  • Obtaining information about a vehicle's previous owners
  • Obtaining information about whether a car has been involved in past accidents or sustained damage
  • Completing a bill of sale immediately after selling a car
  • Assisting law enforcement in reclaiming stolen car
  • Tracking records of recalls, warranty claims, registrations, and insurance coverage

You may request a VIN lookup online, by mail, or in person at the local DMV offices. Several third-party vendors also provide paid services for users to conduct VIN lookups online.