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Massachusetts Public Records
License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in Massachusetts

License plate lookup in Massachusetts are services that facilitate the retrieval of information connected to vehicle license plate numbers in Massachusetts. A license plate lookup enables an individual to run a background check on a registered motor vehicle. A Massachusetts license plate lookup provides official information and Massachusetts traffic records about a motor vehicle; this is especially useful when purchasing a used vehicle in the state. Information provided from a license plate lookup may include:

  • Accident history - accident and damage records of the vehicle
  • Liens and repossession records
  • Mileage verification
  • Flood, hail, and fire damage
  • Service, inspection, and registration history - maintenance history of the vehicle
  • Branded title - official status of the vehicle from the RMV
  • Robbery records - records of cases where the vehicle was reported stolen
  • Any car registration issues

Information on license plates in Massachusetts can be either obtained from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles or from online third-party applications. To receive information from the Massachusetts RMV may require booking an appointment at the local office, but this information is will be up-to-date. Information from online third-party applications may not always be complete or updated, especially if a free license plate lookup service is used. Online third-party applications offer both paid and free license plate lookup services in Massachusetts; typically, paid license plate lookup services to offer users more concise information than free services. License plate lookups enable individuals to run background checks on motor vehicles and retrieve official and key information about the vehicles. This can prove especially useful when trying to purchase a used or second-hand vehicle from its owner or tracking down a plate number.

What is a Massachusetts License Plate?

A Massachusetts license plate is an identification tag that contains the unique number assigned to verify the registration of a vehicle in Massachusetts. Every motor vehicle in Massachusetts is required, by Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Law, to be registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). This includes automobiles, motorcycles, trailers, articulated vehicles, motorboats, and yachts. Upon registering, the vehicle owner will be issued Massachusetts license plates which must be displayed on the front and the back of the vehicle. The Massachusetts RMV issues license plates in multiple categories and for different vehicles, including automobiles, trailers, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles. A schedule of fees for the different categories of motor vehicle licenses in Massachusetts is available from the RMV.

A typical Massachusetts license plate will contain the following information:

  • Plate registration number
  • State of issuance (MA)
  • Expiration date

Depending on the category of the license plate, there might be other details inscribed on the plate.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Massachusetts?

Every vehicle on the road in Massachusetts must be duly registered and display a license plate with the registration number. The process for obtaining a vehicle license plate in Massachusetts depends on whether the vehicle was purchased from a dealer or from a previous owner.

For vehicles purchased from motor vehicle dealers, to obtain Massachusetts license plates, the applicants must provide:

  • Completed Registration and Title Application forms. Applicants should ensure the dates of sale and odometer readings are provided and the forms are signed by both the dealer and buyer.
  • Evidence of their Massachusetts residency.
  • Evidence of vehicle insurance obtained from a licensed insurance agent in the state.
  • Proof of vehicle ownership.
  • Requisite fees.

Applicants are required to submit in person the completed forms, bills of sale for the vehicles, and one of:

  • The manufacturer's certificate of origin (new vehicles)
  • The previous owner's certificate of title
  • The previous registration for vehicles exempted from certificates of title

Submissions should be made in person at any of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) service centers in the state. Registration fees for the license plate will depend on the license plate category and can be found in the RMV Fees Schedule. A certificate of title in Massachusetts costs $75 and applicants must also pay a 6.25% sales tax - based on the vehicle purchase price.

Successful applicants will be mailed their registration certificates, new license plates, and a year of expiration decal for the rear plate within 6 - 8 weeks.

For vehicles purchased from other individuals (non-dealers), applicants for Massachusetts license plates must provide active insurance policies on the vehicles obtained from state-licensed insurance agents. The agent who provides the policy must also complete, sign, and stamp the Registration and Title Application form. Applicants are required to submit the completed form, along with the applicable fees and either of:

  • The prior owners' certificates of title
  • The prior owners' registrations and the bills of sale, if the vehicle is exempted from certificates of title

The documentation provided by the applicants must include the vehicle odometer readings and must be signed and printed by both parties. Applicants are required to schedule appointments online to submit their applications in person at their closest Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) service center. Certificate of titles cost $75 and the registration fees for the license plate depend on the category, as specified by the RMV Fees Schedule. There is also an applicable sales tax of 6.25% of the purchase price or the National Automotive Dealer Association (NADA) trade-in value, whichever is higher. Successful applicants will be mailed their registration certificates, new license plates, and a year of expiration decal for the rear plate within 6 - 8 weeks.

All vehicles registered in Massachusetts must undergo and pass yearly vehicle inspections.

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.

Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates

Passenger license plates in Massachusetts are license plates issued to privately registered vehicles and commercial license plates are issued to commercial vehicles. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) defines commercial vehicles as motors vehicles with a weight of over 6000 lbs, that do not meet the definition of private passenger vehicles. These can include sport utility vehicles (SUVs), passenger vans, antique motor cars, motorcycles, trailers, semi-trailers, auto houses, school buses, house trailers, livery vehicles, and pickup trucks. Commercial vehicles in Massachusetts also include:

  • A vehicle with five or more wheels.
  • A pickup truck or cargo van, owned by a partnership, trust, or corporation unless the vehicle meets the definition of a private passenger vehicle.
  • A cargo van or pickup truck, wherein vehicle tools, equipment, supplies, and materials are transported to or from a job site on the bed, roof, or sides of the vehicle.
  • A vehicle that has business lettering, markings, and/or advertisements on it.
  • A vehicle hired out for plowing.
  • A vehicle hired out to transport or store goods or merchandise (unless the vehicle is owned by an individual, the maximum carrying capacity is 1,000 pounds or less, and is only used on a part-time basis).
  • A vehicle used to transport or store goods or merchandise intended for sale in the operator's business (unless the vehicle is owned by an individual, the maximum carrying capacity is 1,000 pounds or less, and is only used on a part-time basis).

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Massachusetts

It is possible to use a license plate lookup to identify the owner of a vehicle registered to a license plate in Massachusetts. A Massachusetts license plate lookup will retrieve available information attached to the registration of a license plate in the state. While this information may not include a name or contact information (for privacy reasons), it may contain information that can be useful in identifying the vehicle owner.

If there is a legitimate reason for requiring this information, contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and submit a request for a search of the RMV records. It is also possible to contact law enforcement to identify the owner of the license plate if a crime has been committed.

Massachusetts License Plate Renewal

Massachusetts vehicle registrations are renewable annually or bi-annually, depending on the category of the license plate. Registered owners of vehicles will receive email reminder notifications for renewals 6-8 weeks before the expiration of the registration. To renew a vehicle registration, there must be an active insurance policy on the vehicle on file with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). If not, the renewal application form must be signed and stamped by the insurance agent as proof of insurance.

License plate renewals in Massachusetts can be submitted online or by mail. Applicants making online renewal registrations must provide:

  • Copy of their driver's licenses
  • Last 4 digits of their SSNs
  • Email addresses
  • Applicable fees (dependent on plate type)

To submit the renewal by mail, complete the application form and mail, along with payment, to:

Registry of Motor Vehicles
ATTN: Mail-in Registration Department
P.O. Box 55891
Boston, MA 02205-5891

Renewal registration fees are dependent on the type of license plate. Payments should be by checks or money orders made payable to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). Applicants can also renew their Massachusetts license plates in person at their closest RMV service center.

Applicants who successfully renew their vehicle registrations should receive their new registrations and license plate decals by mail within 10 working days.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

When registering an automobile, the applicant is required to provide the unique 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN). This information is added to the file records of the vehicle with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). Consequently, it is possible to access a vehicle's registration -and thus, its license plate information - using the vehicle identification number.

VIN Number Lookup

VIN refers to ‘Vehicle Identification Number'. This is a unique identifying code that is attached to every automobile that serves as the vehicle's fingerprint. A VIN is composed of 17 alphanumeric characters that are specific to each vehicle and there are no two alike. A VIN lookup is a service that retrieves the available information attached to a specific VIN. VIN lookups can be conducted online using free and paid third-party user applications. The alphanumeric characters of a VIN provide the following information about an automobile:

  • Characters 1-3 - World manufacturer identifier: This identifies where the car was manufactured, the manufacturer, and the vehicle type.
  • Characters 4-8 - Vehicle descriptor section: This provides information about the vehicle's safety features, body style, engine size and type, and transmission.
  • Character 9 - Check digit: This is used to verify the validity of the VIN.
  • Characters 10-17 - Vehicle identifier section: Character 10 identifies the model year, character 11 identifies the assembly plant, and characters 12-17 are the vehicle production number.

A VIN can be typically found on the driver's side dashboard (viewable through the windscreen) and the driver's side doorjamb. A vehicle's VIN will also be present on the vehicle's title, registration, and insurance papers. A VIN lookup will provide the available information about the vehicle as it is linked to the vehicle's registration.



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