Free Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup

Karl Brauer

Written by

Karl BrauerAutomotive Journalist & Analyst
Miranda Yan

Reviewed by

Miranda YanEditorial Director & Co-Founder

Updated on: Mar 23, 2023

Get a comprehensive history of a used car

  • Specifications and equipment details.
  • Accidented or stolen.
  • Known and hidden repairs.
  • Past and present market values.
  • Sales records, title issues, and liens.

Buying a used vehicle in Pennsylvania is becoming increasingly popular, but there are still some risks you need to take into account. Is the car stolen? Has it ever been in an accident or subjected to a natural disaster? Are there any unpaid liens (debts) on the title? Are there any outstanding warrants, traffic fines, or other legal issues tied to the vehicle?

Luckily, a free Pennsylvania license plate lookup can save you from these headaches by providing you with a detailed history of the vehicle. It can even tell you the current market value, so you'll know if you are getting a good deal on the purchase price.

Understanding the vehicle's accident and service history can help you avoid buying a damaged or poorly serviced car, as well as help you can identify legal issues, including cases where a fraudulent car dealer will try to swap the VIN with another similar vehicle.

How Does a Pennsylvania License Plate Work?

Pennsylvania first required car owners to register their motor vehicles in 1903. People provided their license plates for display until 1906 when the state began to issue plates.

Currently, license plates are issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) through its Driver & Vehicle Services division. Only rear plates have been required on regular passenger vehicles since 1952.

Most other vehicle types also require rear plates only, though front plates are required on passenger vehicles owned by the state, and on vehicles owned by press photographers.

Types of License Plates Available to Pennsylvania Drivers

You can find 6 types of registration plates on the PennDOT website. Here is a quick look at each category of plate:

  1. Standard Issue: These license plates are usually colored blue, white, and yellow with the characters on them in blue, representing normal registration.
  2. Special Fund: These plates have a unique background and design featuring one of several small images, depending on which fund they support. They are issued to benefit various non-profit organizations.
  3. Specialty: This registration plate can have various designs based on the user's profession, institution, or company, such as college license plates.
  4. Special Organizations: These plates are currently available for passenger cars and trucks with a registered gross weight of 14,000 pounds or less, including trailers, motorcycles (if the organization has an approved design), and motorhomes.
  5. Personalized: For people who prefer a unique plate, either related to their name or something they are connected with, a personalized plate is available for a fee. There are a few rules drivers must follow when ordering personalized plates.
  6. Military: These license plates are for honoring military personnel and can reflect their military positions, their awards, or the war they participated in.

A pictorial history of Pennsylvania license plates helps you tap into the license plate types above.

Benefits of Looking up a License Plate in Pennsylvania

A license plate lookup can provide a range of helpful information about a vehicle. Let's look at the top 3 advantages that can benefit you most.

Help You Avoid Buying Poorly Serviced Vehicles

You can see the maintenance history of a vehicle, how often it has been serviced, and if there have been any major repairs. The car may be in good condition now, but you need to know if it has received its required, regular maintenance and repairs in the past.

Empower You to Guard Against Dishonest Dealers

Some unscrupulous dealers will tamper with the car's odometer to reflect a lower reading than the car's true miles. A license plate lookup can give an estimated mileage figure, which you can compare with the car's actual odometer. You can also spot instances where the odometer reading has gone down over time during service appointments, indicating odometer tampering and suggesting you should consider other cars from other dealers.

Reduce Your Chances of Buying an Illegal Vehicle

With a free license plate lookup you can find out if the vehicle has been reported stolen if it has had accident repairs, and if there is a clear title to the vehicle. It can also provide details of any previous or currently outstanding traffic fines and misdemeanors, and if there are any criminal matters associated with the car. After verifying all these details you can be confident your intended car is fully legal to purchase.

How Can I Check a Pennsylvania License Plate Number?

Use an Online Lookup Tool

One of the fastest ways to run a license plate lookup is to use a vehicle search website such as VinPit. You can access detailed vehicle history reports easily from the comfort of your couch, by simply filling in the license plate number at the top of this page.

Request from PennDot

Another option is downloading and filling out the "Request for Vehicle Information" form on the PennDOT website and mailing it to PennDOT's office. If the vehicle was registered in Pennsylvania, you can request a copy of its public records at the DMV office. Of course this option will take additional time and effort compared to using an online vehicle search tool like VinPit.

Why Is VinPit My Top Choice for a License Plate Lookup?

Both Free and Paid Reports Are Available

VinPit offers two options for users based on their needs: free and paid vehicle history reports. If you just want to check the specifications of a car, you can opt for a free report. If you would like to dig deeper into accident and maintenance history records, a paid version is a better choice.

No Need to Sign Up for the Vehicle Search Services

You are not required to register with the website for a license plate search or VIN (vehicle identification number) lookup service, so there's no need to worry about your private data being leaked.

Extensive Database of 268+ Million Registered Vehicles

VinPit's vast network of reliable sources puts you in touch with more than 268 million automobiles registered in the United States. We have always committed to offering you verified and updated information.

What Can I Get From a Pennsylvania License Plate Search?

A wide range of information is available through a license plate lookup, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • VIN number
  • Insurance claims
  • Images of the vehicle
  • Sales listings and last selling price
  • Manufacturer safety recall status
  • Airbag deployments
  • Latest odometer reading

However, the personal owner information you can get from a license plate search is limited. If you want to track someone using a plate number, make sure it is not against the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup?

Most online search portals like VinPit offer both free and paid plans for Pennsylvania license plate lookup services. Typically, searching for basic vehicle specifications is free of charge. But if you choose to check with PennDOT, you would have to pay a fee.

Who Can Request My Vehicle Records in Pennsylvania?

In most cases, your employers, insurance companies, and attorneys may check your vehicle details as needed. Plus, your vehicle details can be requested by courts and law enforcement.

Is the Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup Accessible to Everyone?

Previously this type of search was only available to the police and other government agencies, but now it can be accessed by the general public. Anyone interested in checking a vehicle's condition and legal status can use a license plate lookup to find this and other categories of information about a car.

How Accurate Are the Details From Online License Plate Lookups?

Typically, a reliable license plate search tool like VinPit will gather information from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) organization from all 50 states, insurance companies, and other reliable resources. You can rest assured that the details VinPit presents are accurate.

Can I Look Up My License Plate Number in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you can. You may enter your license plate number to see if there are any safety recalls, which can help you avoid potential injury risks. You can also check your vehicle's market value if you want to sell it and understand what price to ask.