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Pennsylvania License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in Pennsylvania
November 22, 2022

Purchasing a vehicle can be a complicated exercise. You will have to comply with various requirements, such as getting an auto loan, obtaining a vehicle insurance policy, learning to drive, ensuring the vehicle’s emissions are not above the provided average, and registering and titling the car. 

This is why you need to put on an investigator’s cap to avoid buying low-quality vehicles. 


In 2019, it was reported that the state of Pennsylvania had over 10,000,000 registered vehicles, accounting for 3.9% of all vehicles in the United States. 


This means that the state has one of the largest vehicle markets. 

If you are a resident of the state looking to purchase a pre-owned vehicle, it is crucial to obtain the vehicle’s report history using a license plate lookup. 


This will allow you to compare the reality of the vehicle with whatever the dealer is saying. 

You will be able to gauge the vehicle’s true value, ownership history, accident records, etc. 


This way, you can make an informed decision and ensure every detail is in place. Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about running a license plate lookup in Pennsylvania.

a sign that reads driver licenses

Overview of Pennsylvania License Plates

To conduct a license plate lookup, it is important to understand the nature and attributes of Pennsylvania license plates.


Pennsylvania license plates are made from plastic and metallic materials and contain inscriptions bearing alphanumeric characters used in identifying the vehicle and its owner. 

The plates measure 12 by 6 inches in, with a white background bearing yellow, blue, and white bars. 


According to Title 67 Section 47(2), (a) of the state’s Code, every vehicle in the state must have a single license plate attached to the rear; the only exceptions are truck tractors required to display license plates in front. 


“Pennsylvania” is boldly printed on the top of the plate, and “” is inscribed on the bottom center. 

Pennsylvania license plates are 7 characters long and follow this format: ABC-1234. The Division of Motor Vehicles of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation introduced this present format in June 2017. 

The Division of Motor Vehicles is the central authority responsible for issuing license plates in the state. The agency issues various types of license plates, including:

* State or standard license plates
* College license plates
* Personalized license plates
* Special service license plates
* Antique license plates
* Military license plates
* Special fund license plates
* Disability license plates

Residents of Pennsylvania must register and title their vehicles within 20 days of entering the state. Otherwise, you will be considered an illegal motorist. 


A vehicle cannot be registered unless it is titled, and you cannot obtain your license plate unless it is titled. 

Even after completing these requirements, the vehicle must be inspected before it can be considered roadworthy. 


Out-of-state vehicles must be registered before they can be driven on Pennsylvania roads. 

The penalty for driving unregistered vehicles in Pennsylvania is $75. 


You would be fined $25 if the vehicle had been registered within 60 days prior to the conviction in a commonwealth state. You will be fined $50 if your vehicle is not a trailer. 

a blank license plate on a car

Types of Data that Can be Retrieved Through a License Plate Lookup

License plate lookup is an electronic exercise used to retrieve valuable data about a vehicle’s history. The following data can be obtained during a license plate lookup in Pennsylvania:

* Ownership history: This report confirms the ownership history of the vehicle and whether or not the dealer has a legitimate right to sell the vehicle.
* Livery usage: This describes the type of activities the vehicle was used for, whether it was used in a personal capacity or as part of a fleet of vehicles.
* Accident history and structural damage.
* Vehicle specifications: This section includes details like the vehicle’s model, make, and other manufacturing information.
Total loss, flood, junk, and salvage records.
* Recalls and defects.
* Theft check: This informs you whether or not the vehicle is a missing or stolen vehicle and if the title is legal or not.
*Odometer and mileage readings
* Environmental score: What are the car’s fuel efficiency and EPA ratings?

While the Pennsylvania Division of Motor Vehicles offers various details about the car’s history, the agency does not disclose certain information. 


It does not disclose information that could threaten the security and privacy of past owners. 

This is in line with the provisions of Pennsylvania privacy laws. Some of these details include the social security number, name, and address of past owners. 

a man attaching an empty license plate on a vehicle

How to Conduct Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup

There are various ways to perform a Pennsylvania license plate search. One way is by visiting the official website of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT). 


Follow the steps below to find out how to perform a license plate lookup on the site:

1. Visit the website of the Pennsylvania DOT
2. Click on “Online Services”
3. Click on “Individual Driver Records”
4. Review the various system requirements
5. Agree to the terms and conditions provided
6. Log into your account and order the driving records

This service is only available to the vehicle owner or persons with express authorization to perform such exercises. Any misstatement of fact is punishable by a fine of $2,500 and/or a prison term of up to one year. 


You can also complete the Request for Vehicle Information Form, known as Form DL-135. The form costs $12 per request. 

Finally, you can also employ the services of private investigators. Private investigators can help you retrieve the details you need discreetly and promptly. 


They have access to several databases that are not accessible to the average person. 

However, their services cost more and are usually offered within the range of $200 to $600. Always ensure the private investigator is licensed and insured before hiring them.


Pennsylvania license plate lookup provides potential owners valuable insights into a vehicle’s past. 


This eliminates the risks of purchasing vehicles with questionable histories and values.

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