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North Carolina License Plate Lookup

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The following is for informational purposes only

How To Lookup a North Carolina License Plate

How To Lookup North Carolina License Plates

To perform a free North Carolina license plate lookup, simply find a public records portal online and type in the license plate number. You will see vehicle details like the year, make, and model. But if you are looking for more extensive details about the vehicle owner, you must qualify under strict state and federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws. North Carolina does not allow the general public access to motor vehicle records. However, they have a form that individuals and businesses can use to request records for permissible use. When you request records, you will need your name, address, phone number, and signature. Anyone who receives personal information (like name, address, social security number, etc.) must be careful. If you violate DPPA laws, you could be subject to steep fines, jail time and other penalties.

North Carolina Motor Vehicle Laws

North Carolina Motor Vehicle Laws

Before registering a vehicle in North Carolina, you must have it inspected, and it must pass. It also must be titled in the state of North Carolina. Residents must renew their vehicle registration each year.

Before you can get license plates for your vehicle, it must be titled and registered in North Carolina by N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. In some cases, you also have to pass an emissions test.

Renewal reminders will go out 60 days before it is due. You can renew online, but you must pay any vehicle property taxes due at the same time. If you renew online, you will pay an additional $3 processing fee. If you don't want to pay it, you can renew it in person at the DMV office.

If you renew your car or truck late (less than 30 days), you will pay a $15 late fee. One to two months late and the fee is $20 and two or more months; the fee jumps to $25.

North Carolina License Plates

North Carolina License Plates

North Carolina uses standard plates that are blue, white, and red. They offer three different designs for standard plates, and they are:

  • "First in Flight," which commemorates the Wright Brothers' first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903
  • "First in Freedom," which recognizes two important North Carolina milestones in the American Revolution
  • "National and state motto," which includes both the United States motto ("In God We Trust") and North Carolina motto ("To Be Rather Than to Seem").

North Carolina also has more than 100 specialty license plates honoring specific causes, organizations, foundations, and schools. You can also order personalized plates (for an additional fee) with specific lettering on them.

What is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in North Carolina All About?

What is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in North Carolina All About?

North Carolina abides by the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and requires through state law, the Division of Motor Vehicles to disclose personal information contained in motor vehicle records in accordance with the federal DPPA. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 20-43.1)

"The Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act requires that personal information in Division of Motor Vehicle records be closed to the public. Personal information from these records, however, may be released to individuals or organizations that qualify".

Additionally, they mention that the federal DDPA "requires that personal information in DMV records be closed to the public. This refers to photos, social security numbers, driver license numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, and medical information.

General Purpose: A State Department of Motor Vehicles, and any officer, employee, or contractor, thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity personal information about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record".

NC License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Legally Lookup License Plate Numbers in North Carolina?

It is legal to look up basic information using a license plate lookup in North Carolina. However, if you are looking for more detailed records containing personal driver information, you must qualify under DPPA laws. If you fail to comply with these privacy laws, you could face serious fines and even jail time plus have to make reparations towards the person you harmed.

What Will I Need to Supply?

When requesting motor vehicle records from the state of North Carolina, you will need your name, address, telephone number, driver's license number, and signature. You also have to provide a license plate number, driver's license number, or other ID to search from. You must designate which of the permissible uses you are requesting the records for and qualify.

How to Look Up an North Carolina License Plate Using the VIN?

Using the North Carolina method of searching, you can use the state-provided form and ask that they search using the VIN. However, any type of license plate lookup that contains personal details is subject to strict DPPA laws, and you must comply, or you will face harsh punishment. You can use the national title registry to locate a vehicle and its crash reports, recalls, and more.

How to Locate the Owner of a License Plate in North Carolina?

It is not lawful to locate the owner of a vehicle through a license plate search for the purpose of contacting them or doing personal research to find their address or phone number. Personal details within motor vehicle records are protected by privacy laws, and you have to comply. You can, however, contact local law enforcement if you need help locating someone.

What is Considered a Legal Use of License Plate Information?

"Permissible Uses: Personal information SHALL be disclosed for use in connection with matters of:

  • Motor vehicle or driver safety and theft.
  • Motor vehicle emissions.
  • Motor vehicle product alterations, recalls, or advisories.
  • Performance monitoring of motor vehicles and dealers by motor vehicle manufacturers.
  • Removal of non-owner records from the original owner records of motor vehicle manufacturers to carry out purposes of the Automobile Information Act, the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Saving Act, the National Traffic and Motor Safety Act of 1966, the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992 and the Clean Air Act.

North Carolina uses a very strict form paring down the federal DPPA laws to allow only specific individuals or types of businesses access to motor vehicle records that contain personal details. Their form clearly states that:

How Do I Look Up North Carolina License Plates for Free?

It is easy to look up a North Carolina license plate online for free to see vehicle details like the year, make, and model.