Do you need to look up a Virginia license plate? There could be several reasons that warrant the need to search a license plate. When buying a used car, a reverse license plate is the only way to verify the vehicle details if the VIN is unavailable. Instances such as hit-and-run accidents, suspicious or abandoned vehicles on your property, or knowing who the car belongs to might also lead you to search a Virginia license plate.
This guide explains your search options and highlights what information you can expect to find.
Below are a few ways of performing a license plate lookup in Virginia to find basic information about a driver or vehicle:
1) Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
The DMV is the official source for vehicle and license plate data. However, the federal DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act) restricts to whom and under which situations the PII (Personal Identifiable Information) collected by the DMV can be released.
Under DPPA, DMV may share information for situations linked to theft, driver’s safety, market research activity, product alterations, recalls, motor vehicle emissions, for use by any government agency, etc.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
2023, P.O. Box 27412 Richmond, VA 23269
2) Online Third-Party Lookup Services
Getting the information from the DMV can be lengthy and is completely avoidable if you’re only after the vehicle history report. There are many online third-party lookup services that allow you to look up a license plate online and retrieve the results in minutes.
These services provide instant access to information, including vehicle history, service history, recall history, whether the car was in an accident and more. Select services may also fetch the vehicle ownership history if you have a permissible reason. The downside is that the information from these services might not be always accurate and secondly such services are usually not free.
If you’re looking for a free option, LookupAPlate allows you to search any Virginia registered license plates and the rest of the U.S. states for free. The free search shows vehicle specs, recall history and community-reported feedback. For a comprehensive vehicle history, you can request a premium report from one of our data partners.
3. Private Investigators
For the last option, you can also decide to hire private investigators. However, private investigators can become expensive quickly since they include data from 3rd party sources, consumer databases, and social media. They also have a network of contacts who can assist them in obtaining information unavailable online.
Virginia first required its citizens to register their cars and display license plates in 1906.
The registration section of the plate comprises three letters, followed by a hyphen and four numerals. Above these registration details is a VIRGINIA in blue capitals.
Virginia State’s standard license plate also includes the “Virginia is for lovers” slogan. This tourism slogan is displayed near the bottom of the license plate in black letters, with a red heart replacing the “V” in “Lovers.” Slightly below it, in smaller letters, is “Virgnia.org.”
Let’s take a look at some of the most common Virginia license plates rules to be aware of:
In Virginia, license plate fees vary by vehicle year, weight, type of plates being used, length of renewal, etc.
Standard registration fees for:
Replacement or renewal fee: In case you dented, lost, or wish to renew your license plate, you will pay a fee of $10.
Transfer fee: The license plate transfer fee in Virginia is usually $2.
Keep in mind, there are different types of plates in Virginia, and each of these plates may attract an additional fee besides the standard registration fee.
For example, the personalized plates will cost you $10 in addition to the standard registration fee. The special interest plate, such as the breast cancer foundation plate, costs $25 in addition to the standard registration fees (the same goes for the collegiate license plates). An antique/vintage plate costs $50.
All payments for registration or renewal of license plates can be made via check, cash, visa, or credit card.
Besides the standard license plate, Virginia offers over 250 unique plates to its citizens!
We won’t cover them all, but here are some of the most noteworthy VA license plate categories:
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.