I'm trying to write an app that gives basic anonymous car data (make/model/year) from a picture.

I assumed the best way to do that would be to take a license plate number, look up the VIN from the plate, and gather other data through a VIN lookup. However, there doesn't seem to be a database for the US out there that gives you just the VIN from the license plate, and all other license plate lookup services are either scams or for law enforcement / security services due to all of the private information related to car registration numbers.

Is there a way (preferably an API) to lookup just the VIN from an American car plate? I'm not interested in any of the owner data so privacy shouldn't be an issue. I'm just trying to avoid a user from entering in a 17 digit number that they won't know offhand.

  • Edge case: I have an American car, with VIN, currently running on European plates in Europe. Now imagine the converse: someone imports a car with no VIN and puts American plates on it. Be sure to handle that Use Case. – Mawg says reinstate Monica May 27 '15 at 9:49
  • It might be tough. ehow.com/how_6069562_vin-using-license-plate-number.html states "The DPPA protects the privacy of people by prohibiting the release and use of drivers' personal information from state motor vehicle records (see Reference 1). These restrictions include who can run license plate numbers to retrieve information (such as VINs). Those who have legal authority to run license plate numbers include licensed private investigators, law enforcement, employers, those who have obtained a release for such information from the vehicle owner and the owners themselves" ... – Mawg says reinstate Monica May 27 '15 at 9:53
  • Five years later, you might consider closing this and asking a new question on Open Data – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 14 '20 at 10:55

You haven't specified which country you are interested in.

In the UK, you can apply for access to the information from the DVLA under the Open Gov scheme.

  • 1
    My mistake! I'll update the question. – Andrew May 20 '15 at 20:52

There is one more option on RapidAPI that you can give it a try to check VINs for US license plates: https://rapidapi.com/vincheckinfo/api/us-license-plate-to-vin/details

They charge $0.06, $0.08 or $0.10 per request based on the plan you subscribe to.


There are plenty of APIs available to do this lookup, but they are unfortunately not free. They can charge $0.20 cents per request Here is an Example http://vehicleregistrationapi.com/

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