- 1 What is a number plate?
- 2 Are number plates always accurate?
- 3 Why should you check a number plate when buying a new car?
- 4 How can you check if a number plate is already in use?
- 5 Can you find out who a driver is from a number plate?
- 6 So what information can you get from a number plate search?
- 7 How do you do a number plate search online?
- 8 What else can a vehicle number plate check tell you if you’re looking to buy a car?
- 9 How does a V5C confirm a vehicle’s number plate?
- 10 Can you use our tool to find out information about a motorbike from a number plate?
- 11 Does our number plate tool cover commercial vehicles and vans?
There could be several reasons you might want to look up information from the number plate of a car.
Perhaps you are interested in buying a car and want to check a car’s history before you purchase it second-hand.
Maybe you want a personalised number plate but want to check if the registration is already in use.
Or you may want to identify who a car driver is from the number plate.
This article talks you through the process of identifying a number plate. This can help you choose a new number plate, or find out more information about a car attached to an existing number plate.
What is a number plate?
The number plate is your car registration number. It includes numbers and letters and is found on the front and rear of the vehicle.
Your registration number or number plate is also sometimes referred to as your VRM (Vehicle Registration Mark).
Are number plates always accurate?
Most number plates are accurate but sometimes a false number plate is used. A false number plate is linked to a criminal act.
Why should you check a number plate when buying a new car?
Car theft is a much more serious problem in the UK than you might realise. Statistics released by the police demonstrate that the number of cars being stolen is increasing. In the year leading to September 2022, there were 108,542 car thefts in the UK. This means a car is stolen in the UK every seven minutes.
Roughly seven out of ten stolen cars are also never recovered. Most cars are stolen ready to be sold on. This means that the second-hand car market is full of them. So, if you are looking for a new vehicle there’s a good chance you could stumble across a stolen car during your search.
A lot of stolen cars are fitted with false number plates to obscure or hide the theft. Driving a car with a false number plate could well mean that you are driving a stolen car.
Being confident that your car has the right number plate is therefore really important when you’re buying a used car.
“I didn’t know” is never a valid excuse. When buying a car, the legal responsibility that rests for ‘owning’ a stolen car lies on you as the purchaser. That’s why it’s very important to carry out due diligence on any vehicle to find out if it’s legal for you to buy it.
Driving a stolen car is illegal. Because of technology, there is always a good chance a stolen car will be spotted once it has been reported as stolen. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is based on camera checks on licence plates. If ANPR detects a stolen car, the police will be alerted.
Doing a check on a number plate is a good way of making sure a car is correctly registered and not subject to any form of illegality.
How can you check if a number plate is already in use?
You can do this by using an online checker which is linked to the DVLA’s database of all of the licence plates registered in the UK.
This sort of check will quickly tell you whether a number plate is in use.
Can you find out who a driver is from a number plate?
The simple answer to this is no. You can’t find out who a driver is from a number plate.
The DVLA stores lots of information on car owners and drivers. But that information is for use by them and the police. They don’t hand out this information to just anyone.
Any vehicle checked by number plate will not show the registered owner’s name without their permission. Because of the Data Protection Act, it is unlawful for us to share this information via an online search.
The only exceptions to this are if you have a ‘just cause’ to know a name and address from a number cause. An example of just cause would be if you worked at a parking charge company and needed the information to make a charge.
Anyone wanting to get information based on just cause needs to complete form V888 from the DVLA and provide a “just cause” reason. However, most of these types of applications fail and are turned down.
If you have concerns about a vehicle then there are other things you can do. Should your concerns relate to how a person is driving then pass on these concerns to the police, including the registration number, and let them deal with it.
If, however, you have spotted an abandoned vehicle then the best way to raise that is by contacting your local council. Pass on the licence number and the location of the abandoned vehicle to them.
So what information can you get from a number plate search?
There is, however, some information on car ownership that can be revealed through an online search. Your search will show you:
- The number of registered keeper(s) or owners that have previously or currently owned the vehicle. It’s just a number though and does not include personally-identifiable information about previous owners/keepers.
- When the vehicle was first registered.
- The dates that different owners sold the vehicle, bought the vehicle.
- The model year of the car.
How do you do a number plate search online?
Just type in your car registration number below and a vehicle history will be created that tells you the accurate ownership of a vehicle.
Our number plate checker uses data from the vehicle licencing centre for the UK known as the DVLA. This means we use official government records on motoring as part of our checks.
This means that when you type your car registration into the box below, you can be confident in the information that you will get in return.
What else can a vehicle number plate check tell you if you’re looking to buy a car?
We know that you will want to know many things when you are looking to buy a new car. That’s why we have built a range of other features into our online software. We can help you work out if a car has been stolen, its road tax status, when the car’s MOT is due, and whether it’s been written off and the full spec of the vehicle which you’re looking at.
How does a V5C confirm a vehicle’s number plate?
Always make sure you get a V5C document if you are buying a used car from a private seller. The V5C declares the ownership of the vehicle once the sale has been made. It also has information about the car’s specifications and the registered number plate.
You should also make sure the VIN (vehicle identification number), the engine number, and the colour stated in the document match the actual car.
Once you have got the V5C you should always then send it to the DVLA to prove you are the new owner.
If a seller does NOT have a V5C to show you, this is a very good sign that the car has been stolen. Don’t ever buy a used car that doesn’t come with a V5C. Without a V5C you won’t be able to tax your new vehicle either, so it will be illegal to drive it.
Also, look out for the DVLA watermark when you hold up the paper to the light, and make sure it doesn’t have spelling errors. Spelling mistakes in the document are a sign it is a forgery.
Can you use our tool to find out information about a motorbike from a number plate?
Our tool deals with all vehicles with a number plate, and that includes motorbikes.
Does our number plate tool cover commercial vehicles and vans?
Yes, it does. You can use it to check basic information about vans or commercial vehicles from the number plate.