Number plate check in France and the UK

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Publié par Eplaque - 7 min de lecture ⏳

Le 25/08/2023 - Mis à jour le 08/09/2023

In France as in the UK, tools are available for anyone willing to do a number plate check. What are those resources? Here is a list of resources to check the history like mileage, status, owner or technical specifications of a given car.

Car number plate check in France: what is possible?

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In France, there are several ways to get information about a car. Some is public, although it will provide you with very little details. On the other hand, some info is semi private, which means you can get it if you have a copy of the French car registration document (or know the value of a few fields). Finally, some are private, and can only be provided by the authorities. Let’s start with the latter.

Can I check car owner by license plate number in France?

Unfortunately, there is no public tool that can identify the owner of a vehicle with its French number plate. This is confidential information. We, as every private car registration service provider, have access to the SIV car registration database. However, we are not authorized to reveal such information, in particular to people who wish to check the car owner by license plate number. We query the SIV only within the framework of the handling of the registration requests sent to us by our customers. Any other use would put us in breach of the agreement that we signed in order to gain authorized access.

Who can help me in France to find an owner by number plate?

Did you write down the plate number of someone who crashed into your car? Or of an individual who left you their license plate number in France without any other information? Do you want to know who owns a French car plate number? In such a case, you must contact the police or an administration to obtain this information.

Of course, you must have a good reason to ask them to help you check the car owner of a vehicle with its license plate. Do you want to verify that the seller of a used vehicle is indeed the owner? Or just get the name of someone you’ve exchanged smiles with at a red light? For these reasons, it is best not to disturb the police, because they will deny your request instantly. Here are valid reasons for requesting the name of the owner of a plate:

  • Hit-and-run accident
  • When you are a witness or victim of a crime (theft, assault, vandalism, etc.) and the driver ran away
  • Etc.

After filing a complaint, the police will be able to consult the car registration database to identify the owner of the number plate. They should not, however, provide you with the name directly. Indeed, if the number was usurped, the identified person will not be the right one… You will probably have to wait for the conclusion of the police investigation.

Car plate number check to know about the history and status

In France, it is possible to generate a free report regarding the history of any vehicle since it is registered locally. This resource is called HistoVec. In principle, only the owner can generate the report. However, if you manage to get your hand on a copy of the carte grise, you can get it instantly online, and for free here (in French only).

You can also get the HistoVec report if you know this info:

  1. Name and surname of the owner
  2. License plate number
  3. “Formula number” (numéro de formule): unique identifier of the car registration certificate

This report is very handy before considering the purchase of a second-hand car in France. It highlights:

  • Origin of the vehicle, e.g. whether it was registered in France or it has been imported
  • Serious accident(s) (if the vehicle has been subject to a “damaged vehicle procedure”)
  • Number of owners, and who is the current owner
  • Whether the car is stolen?
  • Mileage history
  • Unpaid fines (they must be paid prior to ownership transfer)
  • Sequestration in progress?
  • Whether the vehicle is pledged
  • Any other encumbrance that prevents the ownership transfer

Plate number check to know about technical specifications of a vehicle

It is possible to retrieve basic car specifications with the plate number via a range of private websites related to the automotive business. It’s the Argus website, very popular to assess the market value of a French car, that reveals the most data. Others, such as online spare parts vendor, offer a similar “service”, albeit less exhaustive. Here is what you can check by plate number on the Argus website:

  • Brand
  • Model
  • Engine type
  • Month of registration
  • Year of registration
  • Transmission type
  • Type
  • Number of doors
  • Horsepower
  • Fiscal power (useful to calculate the car registration cost in France)

DVLA number plate check: find out about UK license plate

Uk license plate

In the UK, the DVLA offers a public number plate check tool. It is intended to check whether a vehicle is taxed and has MOT. However, this free UK license plate number check divulges more information! Here is everything you can find out about a car with this handy UK license plate check:

  • Taxe due date
  • MOT expiration
  • Vehicle make
  • Date of first registration
  • Year of manufacture
  • Cylinder capacity
  • CO2 emissions
  • Fuel type
  • Euro status
  • Real Driving Emissions (RDE)
  • Export marker
  • Vehicle status (taxed or not)
  • Vehicle colour
  • Vehicle type approval
  • Wheelplan
  • Revenue weight              
  • Date of last V5C (logbook) issued

How to make a DVLA number plate check?

You just need to type the UK license plate number in the form, no other info is required:

  1. Go to the official vehicle enquiry page of the DVLA website
  2. Enter the number plate you want to check
  3. Click « Continue » to proceed
  4. Confirm with « Yes » if it asks you “Is this the vehicle you are looking for?” (Make and colour will be displayed), then click on « Continue »

The website will provide you with interesting information about the vehicle, such as its make, model, year of manufacture, CO2 emissions, tax status, MOT (if available), and more.

Can I check car owner by license plate number in the UK?

As in France, you cannot directly access personal information about a vehicle’s registered keeper by using just the license plate number. This is true through official DVLA channels or public websites. The DVLA does not provide public access to such information due to data protection and privacy regulations.

However, there are some cases where you might be able to obtain limited information about a vehicle’s registered owner. If you are involved in an accident and need to exchange information, for example. In that case, you must contact the DVLA and provide a “reasonable cause. For example:

  • To find out who was responsible for an accident
  • For tracing the registered owner of an abandoned vehicle
  • For giving out parking tickets
  • In case of suspected insurance fraud
  • For giving out trespass charge notices
  • In case a car is parked on your private land
  • For tracing people responsible for driving off without paying for goods and services (petrol station, etc.)

Even individuals can make a car owner check, via form V888.

Please note that accessing personal information without proper authorization could potentially be a breach of privacy laws. If you have a legitimate reason to contact the owner of a vehicle (such as a parking violation or an accident), you should use the official procedure described above.

Number plate check for personalised license plate

Do you want to make a UK number plate check in the context of personalised license plates? In that case, you must browse the specific website of the DVLA dedicated to registrations.

On the home page you can directly perform a UK license plate number check. You’ll know immediately if a personal number plate is available for purchase, directly or via an auction.

How to check if a number plate is on retention?

If you want to keep your private license plate for usage on another vehicle, you might do so. In order to retain your personalized number plate, you’ll have to pay a fee of £80. Retention application can be done online or by post. Once your request is processed and accepted, you’ll get a V778 retention document. It will allow you to retain the vanity number plate for 10 years. If you don’t assign a new vehicle to the number plate in the following decade, you’ll have to do the retention procedure once again to avoiding losing your rights on it.

As far as we know, there is no direct method to know if a number plate is on retention, beside inquiring whether that specific number is available or not. The DVLA might answer that question after sending an inquiry. Private dealers might be able to assist as well.

How to check if I have a private number plate?

Here are 3 methods available to check if a number plate is private:

1. Check your vehicle documents

The easiest way to determine if you have a private number plate is to check if the format is standard. If the registration number is different from the standard format (e.g., AB23 XYZ), it’s a personalized or private number plate, it is evident from the format itself.

2. Contact the DVLA

If you’re unsure or don’t have access to your registration documents, you can contact the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, 0300 790 6802) for assistance. You can reach out to their customer service helpline and provide them with your vehicle’s details, including its registration number. They can confirm whether your vehicle has a private number plate. they are available during the week from 8am to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to 2pm.

3. Contact a private number plate dealer

If you purchased the private number plate from a dealer, they should have records of the transaction. You can contact the dealer from whom you acquired the private number plate and inquire about its status.

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