Ohio License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in Ohio

An Ohio license plate lookup is a search initiated by entering a vehicle's license plate number into a search tool. A license plate lookup typically returns more vehicle-specific information than can be obtained from a simple model search. A license plate search may provide information normally unavailable to everyone save the vehicle's owner. Since state agencies and industry associations maintain databases containing information on critical events in a vehicle's life, linking a particular vehicle to such databases through its unique license plate may provide vehicle-specific information, such as:

  • Accident history
  • Manufacturer recalls
  • The VIN
  • Salvage and other branded titles
  • Sale history, market value, and estimated ownership costs
  • Equipment and trim specifications

A license plate search may provide you with selected Ohio traffic records and helpful information that can assist you in making an informed choice about purchasing or selling a car. Depending on the search results, it may assist you in maximizing value either as a buyer or seller.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is responsible for issuing license plates in the state. Although the state does not currently have an online tool for requesters to conduct a license plate lookup, you may visit the BMV office or request a Vehicles Record Request Form to conduct a license plate lookup.

Other third-party vendors also provide free and paid services for requesters to perform license plate lookups online. While you can readily access basic vehicle information using free services, a complete vehicle history report or information can be obtained from official sources such as the BMV. BMV-sourced information from license plate lookups is also reliable and updated regularly, but search results from free service providers may be erroneous and out of date.

What is an Ohio License Plate?

An Ohio license plate is a vehicle registration plate that attaches a vehicle registered in Ohio with its owner. Per House Bill 62, a vehicle registered in Ohio must display a unique license plate on the rear of the vehicle. The bill now makes front license plates optional for vehicle owners in the state. If a vehicle's distinct license plate is displayed on the front, the front and rear plates must be similar.

In Ohio, it is illegal to operate or drive a motor vehicle with a license plate (front or rear) that is fake, counterfeit, or belongs to another motor vehicle. These infractions are misdemeanors and may be prosecuted by law enforcement.

Still, the front license plate requirement remains for commercial tractors. House Bill 62 also standardizes the single license plate requirement for state-owned motor vehicles and requires manufacturers or dealer-owned motor vehicles to display a single placard instead of two.

Per license plate regulations in Ohio:

  • No objects may obstruct license plates
  • License plates may not be warped or bent. It must be easy to read at all times
  • The validation stickers on rear license plates must be visible at all times

Since 1983, plates have included a sticker indicating the county of issuance. This was formerly a lengthy sticker located on the bottom of the plate that displayed the county's name. In 1992, the state implemented a numerical county-coding scheme, with the county number displayed on a red sticker in the bottom left corner of the plate. This scheme was initially used only on specialty plates but was expanded to standard passenger plates in October 2001. On standard passenger plates, the design was terminated in 2018 in favor of a return to county-name stickers located at the bottom of the plate.

License plates in Ohio are manufactured by inmates at the state penal industries at the Lebanon Correctional Institution; they have been made of aluminum since 2015, having previously been made of galvanized steel. Governor Mike DeWine introduced a new "Sunrise in Ohio" plate design on October 21, 2021. It became available to drivers on December 29, 2021, replacing the "Ohio Pride" design issued in April 2013.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) issues standard plates and specialized interest plates. Special interest plates are license plates manufactured upon customer request, which may include a logo supporting a special interest group.

Passenger License Plates vs. Commercial License Plates

Passenger license plates are the regular license plates issued to residents for personal use. In contrast, commercial license plates are issued to vehicles for commercial purposes such as buses, taxis, and commercial trailers. Per Section 4501.01 of the Ohio Revised Code, a passenger vehicle is an automobile designed and used for carrying no more than 9 persons and includes any vehicle designed and used for carrying no more than 15 persons in a ridesharing arrangement. A commercial vehicle or truck, per the state of Ohio definition, refers to any motor vehicle that possesses motor power and is designed and used for carrying freight or merchandise, except any motor vehicle used as a commercial tractor.

The basic requirement for registering commercial vehicles and hence obtaining commercial license plates include:

  • Ohio memorandum of title or certificate of title
  • Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax form (Form 2290) or bill of sale, or notarized proof of purchase affidavit
  • Owner's proof of Social Security number or tax ID
  • A verbal declaration of vehicle weight
  • Declaration of Knowledge form (PUC 3422)

For specific requirements for each permitted type of commercial vehicle in Ohio, visit the vehicle registration page of the BMV website. Applications may be completed in person by visiting a local deputy registrar license agency. The relevant fees associated with vehicle registration and license plates are outlined on the fees page of the BMV website.

The requirements for obtaining a passenger license plate are the same as obtaining a standard license plate in Ohio.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Ohio?

Ohio license plates are issued to vehicles when the automobiles are registered with the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). You may register your vehicle in person at your local deputy registrar license agency. To register a passenger car or motorcycle in Ohio, the following information or documentation are required:

  • Ohio proof of Social Security number, driver license, or state ID
  • Tax ID number (for vehicles titled in a business name)
  • Ohio Memorandum of Title or Certificate of Title

Note that when you purchase a new motor vehicle from a dealer in Ohio, the dealer is responsible for handling the vehicle title and registration paperwork for you. However, the following are required to complete the vehicle titling process:

  • Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO)
  • Sales tax on the purchase price
  • Application for Certificate of Title to a Motor Vehicle (BMV 3774 form)
  • Payment for title fees, including a lien holder notation, where applicable

The vehicle titles page of the Ohio BMV website contains information on titling other kinds of vehicles such as used motor vehicles, all-purpose vehicles, off-road motorcycles, repossessed vehicles, salvage, and self-assembled vehicles, utility vehicles, snowmobiles, and others. You can also find information on the vehicle registration requirements for passenger vehicles and motorcycles, non-commercial trucks, non-commercial trailers, transit buses, house vehicles, recreational vehicles, farm trucks, and other vehicle classifications on the BMV Vehicle registration page. The relevant fees associated with vehicle registration and license plates are outlined on the fees page of the BMV website.

Specialty plates may also be obtained at the local deputy registrar license agency or online. Note that specialized interest plates except military plates require an additional annual fee. Some specialized plates include an annual fee of up to $50 for a particular organization. This fee is also known as a contribution fee. The BMV will provide your address and name to the special interest group if you consent to contact. The process for obtaining specialty plates of varying types is available on the special interests plate page of the BMV website.

For further information about obtaining license plates and completing vehicle registrations in Ohio, contact:

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
1970 West Broad Street
P.O. Box 16520
Columbus, OH 43216-6520
Phone: (844) 644-6268

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

Individuals interested in finding the owner of a vehicle may perform a license plate search using the vehicle's license plate number. A license plate lookup may be performed with the assistance of a license plate lookup tool. The information gathered during this search may be utilized to locate the vehicle owner registered to the license plate. Note that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles obtains information about the vehicle and the vehicle owner during vehicle registrations. Vehicle registrations tie license plates to particular individuals or organizations. Therefore, you can find a vehicle owner if the license plate associated with the vehicle is known.

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.

Ohio License Plate Renewal

Ohio license plates are renewed when vehicle registrations are renewed. Vehicle registrations are renewed 90 days before their expiration. Renewals may be completed at a local deputy registrar license agency with the following:

  • Signed proof of Financial Responsibility Statement
  • E-Check (applicable if the vehicle is in an E-Check county)
  • A valid state-issued driver license or state identification card
  • Power of attorney documents and lease agreement if the vehicle is leased

Expiration dates for vehicles differ in Ohio depending on the classification of the vehicle. The expiration dates for the initial issuance of vehicle registrations for the following vehicle types will be the registrant’s birthday, alternate expiration date if qualified, or determined by the leasing company's name if leased:

  • Motor scooter
  • Golf cart
  • Passenger
  • Non-commercial truck or trailer
  • Motorcycle
  • Motor home or house vehicle
  • Moped

Expiration dates for other vehicle categories, such as commercial vehicles and leased vehicles are available on the renewal dates page of the Ohio BMV website. The applicable fees for vehicle registration renewals and license plate renewals can be viewed on the fees page of the BMV website.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes, you can check for Ohio license plates if you know an automobile's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VINs are associated with license plates and other vehicle and owner information maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

VIN Number Lookup

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a 17-digit string of digits assigned by an automobile manufacturer to a particular vehicle. If you can read and decode your vehicle's VIN, you can learn much about it. A VIN lookup is a search using a tool to obtain detailed information about the history of a particular vehicle. To conduct a VIN lookup, you must know the vehicle identification number. The VIN is usually located in the lower-left part of the dashboard, just in front of the steering wheel. By peering through the windshield, you may be able to see the number. The VIN may also be in the following places:

  • Front of the car frame
  • Front of the engine block
  • Driver-side doorpost
  • Underneath the spare tire
  • Rear-wheel well
  • Inside the driver-side doorjamb

By conducting a VIN lookup, you can obtain information about the vehicle such as:

  • Past ownership
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Flood damage
  • Accident history
  • Airbag deployments
  • Liens held on the vehicle
  • Faulty odometer settings