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How to search for a license plate in New York (NY)

Are you looking for ways to look up a license plate in New York? Sometimes, conducting a license plate search might be essential to find information about a person or vehicle. This can be for many reasons, such as insurance claims investigations, fraud investigations, litigation, debt recovery, and more.

In this guide, we discuss different ways you can search for a New York license plate and the limitations of the search. 

Did you know?

As of 2019, there were over 11,389,158 million registered vehicles and 12,194,360 licensed drivers in the state of New York. In 2021, 447,021 road crashes were reported in New York. That’s about one-vehicle crash every 1 minute 32 seconds.

License plate search New York

3 Ways to Look Up a New York License Plate

Here are the most common ways to look up a license plate in New York.

1) New York DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)

You can get driver and vehicle records from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The information obtained will be basic vehicle information, such as the model, manufacturer, year, and engine type.

However, if you want more details, you should conform to the DPPA laws.

New York follows the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), a federal law that regulates the release of private information obtained from DMVs. You can get more details if you have a valid reason for searching for a New York license plate.

These additional details may include the owner’s phone number, address, name, driver’s license number, social security number, date of birth, medical information, and disability information.

More importantly, according to federal law, you should have a permissible use to request additional information.

When requesting a report, you must use their Request for Certified DMV Records request form and provide your contact details. You have to pay a fee for each kind of report you order.

2) Private Investigator

The second option to search a New York license plate is to recruit a private investigator.

New York state has a “DIAL-IN search accounts” service that allows clients (private investigators, attorneys, insurance-related, etc.) who regularly need to search DMV records.

When hiring a New York private investigator to search a license plate, make sure to ask them if they have a DIAL-IN search account.

3) Online Services

Many online services let you do the checkup faster than DMV offices. The best part is the process is quick, and you can have the results in minutes.

Their reports tell you about:

  • Registration, Inspection, and Service History
  • Specifications of the vehicle
  • Flood, Hail, and Fire Damage
  • Accidents History
  • Recovery and Theft Records
  • Reported Odometer Readings
  • Recalls and flaws
  • Mileage Rollback
  • Personal, Taxi, or Police Use
  • Ownership records [Select services only; need DPPA-compliant reason]

These services collect data from several sources, such as manufacturers, insurance companies, auto auctions, car dealerships, and salvage auctions.

Free option: LookupAPlate offers a free tool that allows you to search for any New York license plate for free (use the search bar above). What differentiates us from many other online lookup services is that our basic search is detailed yet free. You can view associated vehicle details like specs, technical parameters, recall history and more. You can also request a comprehensive report about the vehicle history from our data provider [fee applicable].

How to Identify a New York License Plate

New York License Plate Sample

The basic New York license plate is jam-packed with famous New York stuff. If you look closely, you can see all of the following on a standard New York license plate:

  • The Manhattan skyline
  • The famous Statue of Liberty
  • The Adirondack Mountains
  • Niagara Falls
  • A Long Island lighthouse
  • The word “EXCELSIOR” appears below the number of the license plate. The word Excelsior means “ever upward” and is New York’s state motto.

New York License Plate Laws

Now let’s look at some important and unique laws regarding New York license plates:

New York requires motor vehicles to have two plates - one on the rear and one on the front. However, motorcycles need only one license plate on the back.

The license plates should be placed at least 12 inches and not higher than 48 inches from the ground.

All vehicles in New York should be registered to be driven on public roads.

Registrations do not need to be in the name of the vehicle owner.

You can process your vehicle registration renewals at any DMV office, either online or through the mail if you have the right documents.

You cannot renew your vehicle’s registration in New York if it has not gone through inspection in the past year, is expired for over a year, or is canceled or suspended.

New York License Plate Cost

The fees for license plates in New York differ by the kind of vehicle and the kind of license plate. Besides the regular registration fees, you may need to pay service fees and state taxes.

Given below are some of the standard registration fees in New York:

  • Fee for Temporary License Plates: $12.50
  • Registration fee for License Plates: $25
  • Replacement License Plates
    • Application fee: $3.75
    • Replacement fee per license plate: $12.50
  • Plate surrender processing fee: $1
  • Personalized License Plates fee
    • Motorcycles: $35
    • Passenger vehicles: $60

Kinds of License Plates Available in New York

A variety of license plates are available in New York. These include:

  • Disability license plates
  • Specialty license plates
  • The standard New York license plate

Additionally, temporary license plates are available in New York. You need a temporary license plate if you have bought a used or new vehicle.

However, you cannot renew temporary plates, and they are valid for 30 days.

Personalized License Plates in New York

The DMV approves applications for personalized license plates in New York. You are required to follow the guidelines below when applying for personalized licensed plates:

  • The personalized number should be available for registration.
  • It must not include suggestions that are not appropriate.
  • The personalized license plate should contain up to eight characters for vehicles.
  • The personalized license plate should contain up to six characters for motorcycles.

5 Specialty License Plates You Can Get in New York

Many specialty license plates are available in New York. These include:

1) Collegiate and alumni license plates

These license plates are issued to people who want to show support for their university or college.

2) Sports license plates

These plates are issued to people who want to show support to a sports team.

3) Classic cars license plates

 These license plates are issued to owners of vehicles that are over 25 years old.

4) Military license plates

These license plates are used to honor individuals who served in the military. They are issued based on the awards and experience of a person.

5) License plates for special causes

These kinds of license plates are issued to people who want to show their support for a particular charity or non-profit organization. A portion of a person’s license plate fees goes towards a charity or non-profit organization of their choice.

About Jason L Arthur

Jason Arthur is a data junkie, writer, veteran amateur racecar driver and motorsport photographer. He is the co-founder of LookupaPlate, a collaborative platform to report bad drivers plying on American roads. He is also building a blockchain-based vehicle data marketplace (in stealth mode) and is an adviser to several startups.

Jason has been tracking the automotive industry since the 1990s and has a disturbingly deep obsession with the automotive world, and loves to explore whatever roads he can find. From high-speed racing on the circuit to off-road exploration, Jason has an insatiable appetite for adventure. Jason has written for numerous publications, including Autocar Magazine, Motorsport Magazine, and Road & Track.

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