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Washington License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in Washington

Washington License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in Washington
November 27, 2022

When a vehicle is purchased, it must be registered to fulfill specific legal requirements that make it fit to be driven on the road. 


During this process, the vehicle owner is issued a license plate. 


This is the unique identification number of the vehicle that distinguishes it from other vehicles. 


This number is linked to all the details and important information about the car, such as its engine capacity, maintenance history, mileage, model, and so on.

In the State of Washington, it is legally required that every vehicle must possess two license plates attached to it in visible areas in its front and rear. 


The law, however, makes an exception for vehicles whose manufacturers made provision for just one license plate. 


In this case, the Washington State Patrol can grant one license plate waiver to the owner of such a vehicle. 

The license plate is usually a metal or plastic plate that contains the vehicle’s unique identification number. 


The characters on it are a combination of figures and alphabets. 


Thus, doing a Washington license plate lookup entails using a vehicle’s unique identification number to dig up relevant details pertaining to the car.

car-shaped keychain and car keys hovering over a man's hand

Classifications of License Plates in Washington

The agency responsible for issuing license plates in the state of Washington is the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). 


This agency issues different kinds of license plates depending on which category the vehicle owner falls in. They include;    

Collegiate license plates

This kind of license plate is issued specifically to vehicle owners who are in colleges and universities within Washington. 


For example, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, and so on.

Military license plates

License plates in this category are reserved for members of the state military service and veterans in Washington. 


For example, members of the army and marine corps can be issued this kind of license plate.

Special interest and organization license plates

This is the kind of license plate issued to people who are members of special interest groups and organizations such as Keep Kids Safe and Seattle Seahawks.

Disabled parking privileges license plates

There are some special people with disabilities, such as those with eye-sight problems and those who use wheelchairs. 


They are permitted to park in designated places across Washington without law enforcement apprehending them. 


This kind of license plate is issued to vehicle owners in that category. 

a sign that reads driver licenses

How to Lookup a License Plate in Washington:

There are easy options available for people willing to do a license plate lookup. 


You mainly need the license plate number to get the vehicle details. With different third-party companies providing such services, it is easy for you to go online, type in the vehicle’s license plate number on such company’s website, and you get the details you need.

These third-party sites are, however, only sometimes trusted whenever they are free due to incomplete and inaccurate information. 


Thus, you can easily opt for the paid services where you can get full details of the vehicle being searched for. 

Alternatively, you can hire a private investigator to help you out or request it from law enforcement. 


You can also apply to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), where you can file a request physically with the Vehicle or Boat Request Form. 


You can also do this online by utilizing the Public Records Portal.

In addition, a Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) is usually linked to the vehicle’s license plate. 


Thus, it can be used to look up a license plate. It is a set of numbers usually imprinted on different parts of the vehicle and contained in the vehicle’s registration documents.

a woman's hand signing forms

Why Do You Need to Lookup a License Plate?

When dealing with second-hand vehicles especially, the need to conduct a license plate lookup will always arise. 


This is also because the state of Washington is well known to have a lot of car dealers. 


Hence, to avoid fraudulent dealers, it is essential to do a license plate lookup.

When you do this, you can know if the vehicle documents have been altered, the vehicle usage history, registration issues, damage and accident reports, last car inspection, branded title check, stolen records, etc. You can also see the mileage, make, model, manufacturer recall, and so on.

A license plate lookup also helps to ensure security. Vehicles involved in criminal and other illegal activities can be easily tracked down with this process. 


Most of the details are provided by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) and other trusted resources. Therefore, one can be assured of their legitimacy.  


Doing a license plate lookup is in compliance with the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). 


Therefore, it is legal. It also does not expose the personal details of vehicle owners. 


When dealing with used cars, you should do your due diligence by running a license plate lookup to check the vehicle’s history. 


It is a hassle-free process that can help curb fraudulent and illegal activities in the state.

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