Fact or Fiction: Can License Plate Numbers Provide Personal Information?

The short answer is—yes. License plate numbers provide personal information on the registered owner of the vehicle, that’s what they are for, that is their sole purpose in the universe. But the bigger and more important question (at least to us), is not what information is tied to our license plate number, but who exactly has access to it?

Spider 2.0 license plate black out
Well, cops have access to it. That’s a given. Insurance companies for sure, and probably anyone working at the DMV with a department computer-login and password can look up your license plate number and find out all sorts of good stuff about you. Like those overdue parking tickets you stuck in your glove box and forgot about. Okay, not really much we can do about that, but what about everyone else? Can any schmo walk up to the DMV counter or plug my license number into an internet search, get all my personal information and then, as my wife puts it, “come to our house and kill us”?

Here’s what a little digging turned up: license plate numbers are public information and therefore some of the information associated with that number can be requested by any member of the general public. Here in California, filling out a (DMV) INF70 form and paying a small fee will get you the registered owner’s name, and vehicle description. Thankfully, the form requires that the requesting party also provide their information and a copy of the request be sent to the registered owner (so at least you’ll know who’s coming for you). Also, due to Federal law, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2721-2725), the type of information available through a license plate records request is limited and personal information such as; telephone number, driver license or identification card number and current residence of the registered owner remain confidential.

So, is it still a good idea to blur out your plates if you decide to list your car for sale on Craigslist? Probably, just because you are exposing your information to a greater number of people than you typically would. And these days it’s getting harder and harder to keep track and manage our online identities. If you are planning on taking your classic ride to a lot of auto shows, or other car related events; it might be a good idea to invest in some custom license plates, such as these from Speedy Signs or Custom European Plates which will help keep your identity safe and won’t compromise the integrity of the photos. Especially smart because you can count on shutter-happy car-buffs like us being there, snapping a ton of photos of your shiny classic, and running home to post them to our blog.

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