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Are you in the market for a used car and want to research its history to check if it has been in an accident or had any other problems? Or maybe an abandoned vehicle is blocking your driveway, and you want to find the owner? In these situations and more, a North Carolina license plate lookup can help, but there are certain caveats to consider.

Depending on why you are searching, your options will vary. If you just want to verify the vehicle history, check if the vehicle was stolen or in an accident or see the number of owners, the process is straightforward. However, if you’re looking for personal information such as the owner, address or phone number, you would need to have a permissible reason and go through the official route, i.e. the DMV.

In this guide, we’ll discuss different ways to go about conducting a license plate search in North Carolina and mention the data that you can access.

How to Search for a License Plate in North Carolina (NC)

1) Use our license plate lookup tool.

You can use our online tool to search for a North Carolina license plate for free. Enter the tag number in the search box above, select the state as “North Carolina,” and hit the search icon. You can view basic information about the vehicle like the make, model, service history, recall history, any reported damages or accidents etc., for free. Additionally, you can request a premium report from our third-party data provider to find the owner’s information.

2) Contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles.

If accessing PII (personally identifiable information), such as the owner’s name, address and phone number, is what you’re after, you’ll need to contact the North Carolina DMV. You must have a valid reason or credentials to make such a request. Motor vehicle records (MVR) are confidential and are not available to the general public except under specific circumstances. The federal DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act) regulates the release of such information.

The MVR records can be obtained in person or by mail. You need to fill out the (MVR-605A) form and mail it to the following address:

N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles RTP Unit,
3148 Mail Service Center,
Raleigh, NC 27697-3148

For in-person requests, the form must be completed and taken to the following:

Raleigh Central Services/License Plate Agency
4121 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27616

3) Third-party license plate search services

Several third-party services offer license plate lookup services, but we don’t have any specific recommendations, nor do we vouch for the accuracy of such services. As a tip, make sure you read the fine print when signing up for such services.

How to identify a North Carolina license plate?

Correctly identifying the state of origin of a license plate is important to be able to run a license plate lookup. Just like standard American license plates, North Carolina license plates have the following elements:

  • Standard size (12 in × 6 in)
  • The state name
  • The state slogan
  • The validation sticker
  • The plate number

North Carolina has three standard plate designs:

North Carolina License Plate Sample

1) First in Flight design: White backdrop with e blue colored wright flyer graphic on top and grasses at the bottom. The top of the plates reads “First in Flight”, and the bottom reads “North Carolina.” The validation sticker is located in the top right corner.

2) First in Freedom design: The top of the plate reads “May 20, 1775 April 12, 1776”, below which the text “First in Freedom” appears. The bottom of the plate reads “North Carolina.” The validation sticker is located on the left side.

3) National and state motto: The national motto, “In God We Trust,” appears at the top of the plate. The state motto, “To Be Rather Than to Seem,” appears below it. The bottom of the plate reads “North Carolina.”

Each North Carolina registered vehicle is assigned a unique 7-character alphanumeric serial number. Unless it’s a vanity number, the license serial follows this format: ABC-1234

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