Michigan License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in Michigan

License plate lookup is the process of using a license plate number to retrieve information about a vehicle and its owner. A Michigan license plate lookup can reveal a driver's criminal driving records, the value of a vehicle and help a person know if a vehicle is stolen property before buying it. Section 257.224 of the Michigan Compiled Laws requires vehicles to have license plate numbers. Vehicle owners in Michigan can perform a free license plate lookup using some online resources. They can also request license plate information from the Michigan Secretary of State office for a fee.

A free license plate lookup in Michigan helps provide basic information like the vehicle type and driver's name. However, it does not provide a driver's detailed criminal history, license plate transfer to a different vehicle, and other sensitive information. When a person performs a license plate lookup, they find vehicle registration, title information, some owner information, mileage, and odometer readings. A Michigan license plate lookup can also reveal selected Michigan traffic records as well as recent vehicle inspection information, weather damage, accident, and repossession history.

What is a Michigan License Plate?

A Michigan license plate is a sign plate attached to the back of a vehicle showing its official registration numbers and letters. Section 257.224(1) of the Michigan Compiled Laws requires the vehicles department of the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) Office to issue one registration plate to vehicle owners. The Vehicles Department requires all cars and trailers on Michigan roads to obtain and display their valid license plates. Section 257.224(10) of the Michigan Compiled Laws prohibits Michigan residents from driving their vehicles on streets or public highways without their license plates. The Michigan SOS office offers various categories of license plates, including:

  • Standard license plates
  • Personalized license plates
  • Historical license plates
  • Fundraising license plates
  • Veteran/military service license plates
  • Collector license plates
  • Special organization license plates

License plates in Michigan display unique details about their owners. For instance, veteran/military service plates indicate where a person served while in the military. It also shows if a veteran was wounded in combat or is disabled. Specialty plates show the type of humanitarian cause that a license plate owner participates in, such as breast cancer awareness, children's trust fund, agricultural heritage, Olympic education, and lighthouse preservation. Historical plates are for vehicles 26 years or older used exclusively by collectors for events like car shows, parades, and historical club activities.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Michigan?

A license plate is mandatory for new Michigan residents, persons who purchased cars from dealerships, and anyone who purchased a vehicle from another resident. To register a vehicle in Michigan, an interested person must provide:

  • A completed Form TR-11L (Application for Michigan Vehicle Title Form)
  • Proof of vehicle ownership such as a valid vehicle title or registration obtained from another state
  • Government-issued photo identification such as driver's license
  • Valid car insurance documents
  • A $15 title fee
  • A $5 new license plate fee or $8 for license plate transfer

Applicants should visit any Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) Office between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The SOS offices are open to the public between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. An applicant should schedule a visit or walk in to submit all the required documentation and fees. They can call the Department of State Information Center at (888) 767-6424 for further inquiries on how to get a license plate in Michigan.

Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates

A passenger license plate is issued to vehicle owners for transporting themselves, personal possessions, and other people for non-business purposes. Conversely, commercial license plates are for vehicles meant for business, like commercial trailers and taxis. Section 257.7(a) of the Michigan Compiled Laws defines commercial vehicles as those used to transport persons or property if:

  • The vehicle's design can accommodate 16 or more persons, including the driver
  • The vehicle weighs 26,001 pounds or more
  • The combined weight of the vehicle and the items it transports exceeds 10,000 pounds
  • The vehicle is meant to carry harmful materials and requires a placard as stipulated in parts 100 to 199 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations

The Vehicles Department of the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) office issues two types of commercial plates:

  • Regular commercial plates - This is issued to vehicles such as buses, limousines, and taxis used in transporting people for hire, ambulances, hearses, and company-owned vehicles weighing at least 8,000 pounds
  • Gross vehicle weight (GVW) commercial plates - This is issued to commercial trucks and semi-tractors

The requirements for obtaining a passenger or regular commercial license plate in Michigan are the same as securing license plates for new Michigan residents. However, GVW commercial license plate costs depend on the GVW weight of the vehicle.

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Michigan?

Any person contemplating how to find the owner of a license plate in Michigan can do so using a license plate lookup tool. This search can reveal the name of the person linked to a license plate and the vehicle associated with the license plate. A person can use the information obtained from this search to find the vehicle’s owner registered to the license plate in Michigan by searching driving and vehicle records. Alternatively, they can use phone number lookup services.

Third-party aggregate sites are a reliable alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.

Michigan License Plate Renewal

The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) Office is responsible for license plate renewal. Michigan license plates expire after one year (on the vehicle owner's birthday). Residents are required to renew their license plates annually. Typically, the SOS notifies persons about their license renewal via mail, 45 days to expiration. The renewal notice usually informs them of the fee required for renewal. However, the SOS office advises Michigan license plate owners who do not receive mail notifications to determine their fees using the renewal fee calculator. Michigan residents can renew their license plates six months before the expiration date. To be eligible for Michigan license plates renewal, a person must have:

  • License plate number or license plate renewal notice
  • Proof of no-fault insurance for their vehicle registration
  • Driver's license
  • License renewal fee

Michigan state residents can renew their license plates via any of the following options:

  • Online: To renew online, a person can use the e-services portal and provide the license plate number they want to renew and pay the required fees using a debit card or credit card.
  • Mail: To renew a Michigan license plate by mail, follow the instructions outlined in the renewal notification mail sent from the SOS office and return the mail.
  • Self-service station: A vehicle owner in Michigan can locate a self-service station and provide their vehicle identification number (VIN) and plate number for their license plate renewal. Alternatively, they can scan the barcode on their vehicle renewal notice at the self-service station. This option allows license plate owners to pay their renewal fees using a credit card or debit card. Some self-service stations allow cash payments. After paying, the vehicle owner can instantly print out their registration card and license plate tab.

Only residents with electronic insurance verification (EIV) can renew their license plates on a self-service station or online. Persons renewing their Michigan license plates at self-service stations will be charged a $3.95 service fee in addition to the renewal fee. If paying by debit card or credit card, they must also pay 2.3% of their renewal fee as a processing fee. After renewal, vehicle owners should place their new license plate tabs on their license plates.

  • In-person: Michigan residents can visit any of the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) offices to renew their license plates.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes, an individual can look up Michigan license plates with vehicle identification numbers (VIN) using VIN lookup tools. Michigan vehicle license plate numbers are linked to their VINs in public vehicle records.

VIN Number Lookup

A vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup involves searching for a vehicle identification number using a lookup tool. A VIN lookup reveals manufacturer information about a vehicle's make, model, serial number, engine size, and year of manufacture. It also discloses a vehicle's ownership costs (based on factors like insurance costs, mileage, and maintenance), ownership history, accident history, market value, and sale history.

A vehicle identification number can be found in different parts of the vehicle, depending on vehicle type. For many passenger cars, the VIN is on the dashboard. Most times, VIN numbers on the dash are better seen from the outside of a vehicle through the windshield. Other places to find VINs are on the vehicle's engine and driver's side door pillar. Vehicle owners can also find their VINs on their liability insurance documents, purchase records, or vehicle titles.