How to identify a car from its registration

Looking at car registration, you can identify the type of car it is in three different ways. The make and model abbreviations, vehicle identification number or VIN for short, and the number plate can all be independently be cross-referenced against various databases.

Note that each state's registration forms appear differently. The information you seek will be located in different places on the registration form based on the state's registration format.

Locate the boxes labelled "Make" and "Model." The make and model will be abbreviated and might be in all capital letters. If you don't immediately recognise what the vehicle is, there is a document that can be found in the resource section of this article labelled "Vehicle make abbreviations list." Click the link to open the document and match the abbreviation listed in the "Make" field to the abbreviations listed on the document. The make listed to the left of the abbreviation is the corresponding make of the vehicle.

Locate the VIN number. It will probably be the longest box noted on the registration and will be 17 characters in length. At this point, you will need to access the Internet and go to Locate the box in the middle of the screen and type in the VIN number as it appears on the registration. There should be no dashes or spaces. Using capital letters is optional when entering this information. When finished, click on "Start VIN Search." This will tell you the exact make, model and engine size of the vehicle for free.

Locate the box labelled "Plate Number." This may vary from state to state on the verbiage, but the information in the box will have a mixture of letters and numbers in it and will look like a number plate number. You could contact your local department of motor vehicles and try to obtain information about the vehicle, but many states have strict rules about releasing personal information. The other option is to pay £19.40 for lifetime membership access to You can search via the number plate and get the make and model of the vehicle along with certain pieces of information about the owner if needed.