Texas License Plate Lookup

Erik Deckers

Written by

Erik DeckersFreelance Content Writer
Miranda Yan

Reviewed by

Miranda YanEditorial Director & Co-Founder

Updated on: Mar 22, 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.

If you're buying a used car in Texas, you'll want to research the vehicle's specifications, accident history, recall history and ownership. You can learn a lot about the vehicle by looking up the number on the Texas license plate.

Years ago, you had to visit a government office just to obtain detailed information about the vehicle. Now you can just do a Texas license plate lookup online from the comfort of your own home.

Types of Texas License Plates

Before we delve into the Texas license plate search, let's look at the different types of Texas license plates. Generally, license plates for Texas vehicles fall under three main categories: General Issue, Specialty, and Souvenir.

General Issue License Plates

Just as the name may suggest, general-issue license plates are those plates issued to drivers upon registration of their vehicles. They're the plates found on most Texas cars and trucks. You're required to place general-issue license plates on the front and back of your car or truck.

You are given your license plate number by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), and you cannot personalize it. And as of November 2016, the state will no longer automatically replace your Texas license plates after seven years; you can request replacement plates if they are stolen or become hard to read.

The current design for Texas general-issue license plates is "The Texas Classic." It's worth noting that this is the first license plate in the country to feature security threads embedded in the sheets to make it easier for law enforcement to spot legitimate license plates.

Specialty License Plates

Unlike general-issue license plates, you can only get specialty license plates by special request. Specialty license plates give vehicles a personal touch and, more often than not, represent something dear to the owner, like a loved one's name, their favorite hobby, or their favorite sports team.

If you want a personalized license plate, you can order it for an additional fee on top of your registration fees. The TxDMV must approve personalized messages on Texas specialty license plates.

Souvenir License Plates

Unlike the two types of Texas license plates mentioned above, souvenir license plates are not legally binding. In fact, they are only meant to be worn on a vehicle as decoration. And since you must put your official license plates on the front and back of your vehicle, you can only place your souvenir license plate in another location.

What Can You Get from a Texas License Plate Lookup?

By checking your Texas license plate, you can get all relevant, legal, and updated information on the vehicle, including:

  • Vehicle identification numbers (VIN)
  • Vehicle specifications
  • Registration details
  • Changes of ownership
  • Odometer readings
  • Accident history
  • Damage records (e.g., floods, fire)
  • Theft reports
  • Safety recalls
  • Estimated market value

Once you have this information, you can make a more informed decision about buying a used car in Texas and negotiate a better price with the seller.

Why Should You Run a Texas License Plate Lookup?

When buying a used vehicle, it is always important to do your research. A Texas license plate lookup can provide a variety of information that can help you in the following ways:

Find Hidden Damages

Buying a vehicle with hidden problems can be life-threatening. Moreover, it can cost a lot of money to repair those problems — money you may not have expected or planned for.

A free license plate search will tell you if your chosen vehicle has been involved in an accident or has received unexpected damage, such as being caught in a flood or fire. If the search results in any red flags, take the car to a trusted mechanic for a full inspection.

Be sure to also take the car on a test drive with a friend or family member. Listen for any unusual sounds like squeaks, grinding, or knocking in the engine.

Prevent Purchase of Stolen Vehicles

In Texas, thousands of vehicles are stolen each year, many of which are sold to unsuspecting buyers. However, if you purchase a stolen vehicle, you may be arrested and charged with possession of stolen property.

To avoid buying a stolen vehicle, conduct a license plate search to see if the vehicle you are buying has any unrecovered thefts on its record.

You can also check insurance theft claim records at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to determine whether the vehicle has been stolen. Just enter the VIN to find the necessary information about that particular vehicle.

Check for Open Recalls

Every safety defect poses a risk to people, so recalls should be taken seriously. Open recalls are sometimes a red flag to buyers because they may indicate that sellers ignored other maintenance and repairs.

Some sellers may not disclose information about vehicle recalls to you. However, a license plate search or a free VIN search at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will allow you to know if there are any pending recalls.

Avoid Odometer Fraud

Whitney Brewster, executive director of the TxDMV, said, "Tampering with an odometer to deceive a buyer is a serious crime that puts innocent Texans' safety and finances at risk."

You can avoid this fraud by doing a license plate lookup. The search results will provide you with that vehicle's odometer history to ensure it is steadily increasing. Plus, here are some tips from TxDMV to determine whether a car's odometer has been altered.

How Do I Conduct a Texas License Plate Lookup?

There are two general methods of conducting a Texas license plate lookup for free.

  1. Conduct your search via the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, called TxDMV.
  2. Do it from your home or on your mobile phone, via a free license plate lookup platform.


If you choose the first method, you can either physically visit the TxDMV building nearest to you or send them an email request.

Upon presentation of your TX license plate search request, the TxDMV, under the Texas Public Information Act requirements, is obligated to provide you with as much info as the law allows about the vehicle in question.

Online License Plate Lookup Services

Alternatively, if you prefer to conduct a free Texas license plate search from your home or on your phone, you can access several online databases to achieve the same results. One of the best free online license plate lookup services in Texas is VinPit.

VinPit has simplified the process of looking up license plates on its platform. You must enter your license plate number in the search box, select "Texas'' and start your search. In a few seconds, you'll get a free vehicle history report.

Must Do Before Buying a Used Car in Texas

With millions of used cars changing hands every year, finding the right one for you can be challenging. Here are some tips to help make finding and buying the perfect used car in Texas easier.

  1. Create a target list of used cars. We recommend listing at least three vehicles that meet your requirements and are within your budget. You can choose by looking at reviews of the vehicles.
  2. Find used cars for sale in your area and shop for your target vehicle. Once you find a vehicle you are satisfied with, contact the seller to find out more about the vehicle.
  3. Do a license plate or VIN search online to see if the car is a good deal. Check the vehicle history report. Make sure it is in good condition, hasn't been stolen, doesn't have any recall notices, and doesn't have any secret repairs.
  4. Test drive the vehicle. This is the best way to determine if the car is right for you. This will also allow you to evaluate the condition of the particular vehicle.
  5. Have the vehicle inspected. A vehicle history report and test drive are not a good substitute for a vehicle inspection. You should take the vehicle to an experienced mechanic.


How many figures and digits are on Texas License plates?

Texas general license plate numbers typically consist of seven digits, a mixture of either three letters followed by four numbers OR three numbers and four letters.

Is it legal to do a license plate lookup in Texas?

Yes. License plate lookup is legal in Texas. It is not an invasion of privacy to do a license plate lookup in the state, as long as it is for personal reasons and not for any malicious intent.

Will a Texas license plate lookup tell you the owner of the vehicle?

No, the Texas license plate search will only show the number of owners. If you need to find out who was driving the car, look through the traffic records in your area.

Can you get license plate numbers with VIN?

Yes, you can find a Texas license plate if you know a car's VIN — vehicle identification number. A VIN check will provide detailed information about the vehicle, including its license plate number.