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Want to look up a Maryland license plate? Maybe you’re buying a new car and want to double-check some information or because you’re worried about a vehicle you’ve seen driving hazardously. You have several options when looking up a Maryland license plate – below you’ll see the options outlined to decide which method might be right for you.

how to search a license plate in Maryland

Ways to Lookup a Maryland (MD) License Plate

  • Maryland DMV

In Maryland, the form you need to fill out when searching for vehicle records is the DR-057 (01-18) Request for Motor Vehicle Administration Records. This form is issued by the Maryland Department of Transportation and costs $12 if you would like certified records or $9 for uncertified excerpts. The Department of Public Safety and the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) also keep records.

However, it should be noted that unless you are a law enforcement authority, legal representative, or have signed permission from the owner of the vehicle you are searching, you will need a valid permissible use to ensure that the query you are making is legal. DPPA laws exist to protect the information of civilians being disclosed without good reason. 

  • Third-party license plate database

Privately maintained third-party sites can offer instant searches where you can find information on a vehicle’s make, model, year, mechanical stats, etc., with only the car’s license plate number. What is limited though, is the ability to find out any personally identifying details linked to the owner of a vehicle. Again, this information is highly secure and will not be available without a valid legal reason. 

While we can’t recommend any particular database, we would like to highlight our offering. LookupAPlate.com allows you to search for a license plate in Maryland and the rest of the US states for free. The basic search yields vehicle details like the specs, picture and other technical parameters. You can also request a comprehensive report from our partner data vendor for a nominal fee.

  • Private Investigators

Hiring a private investigator is another way to find a license plate owner. The investigators have direct access to the DMV database and can run the check on the license plate and provide you with a report. This is a more expensive but quick option, but it may be worth it if you need to find a license plate owner for legal reasons.

How to Spot a Maryland License Plate

Sample Maryland License Plate

Since 2016 Maryland plates have been in the format 1AB2345, with the lettering in black upon a white plate. The bottom half of the plate is screened with the white, red, black, and yellow Maryland flag and the top middle reads ‘Maryland’ in red. Previous to this edition, the plates have always been relatively simple, using a combination of 6 letters and numbers and a plain white background with only an emblem of the state flag as a separator and as the only decoration.

The exception to this is the plate issued for six years post-Summer 2010, which commemorated the war of 1812, displaying fireworks and the star-spangled banner behind the text. However, specialty plates do exist that offer a range of unique designs, as well as government, temporary, and non-passenger vehicle plates, which are all slightly different from the standard format. 

Maryland License Plate Laws

Like in all other states, the standard plate size is 6x12 inches. It must be fixed to both the front and rear of all vehicles, motorcycles, and trailers which only require a rear plate. 

In Maryland, plates must be returned if you move out of state, if your insurance expires and is not renewed, or if you sell the vehicle and have no need for them. In certain circumstances, you can use your existing plates on a new vehicle upon the sale of your previous one. 

Maryland License Plate Costs

The cost of registering Maryland License Plates varies greatly on vehicle type. Registrations last 2 years and there is a $17 yearly surcharge. For a car up to 3700 lbs., you can expect to pay $135 (to last the two years.) For heavier cars, the cost is $187, and for certain types of vehicles like buses and limousines, the price exceeds $400. 

Maryland License Plate Types

There are a number of special plate options in Maryland. Like other states, there are plates for disabled drivers (or their caregivers). These carry a wheelchair motif and are decorated with a bright background image of the Chesapeake. For disabled veterans, the plate is plainer, with a red, white, and blue flag motif at the bottom and a wheelchair symbol on the left. 

Vanity plates (or personalized plates) are permitted but they must adhere to MD MVA’s criteria:

  • NOT objectionable
  • Not already in use
  • 2 to 7 characters

The fee for vanity plates is $50/year on top of the standard license plate fee.

There are also countless options for other specialty plates to show support for organizations and causes like Non-profit, charities, colleges, fraternities and sororities and more. 

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