Alabama License Plate Search

If you're a new owner planning to get a motor vehicle in Alabama, the license plate will become one of your priorities, together with a driver license and insurance. Within this article you will learn about license plate search, options, validity and many more.

As a vehicle owner in any Alabama county, whether you have purchased a new or a used car, you must obtain a temporary plate to drive it legally. If you’re already an Alabama resident, you can also use the Alabama license plate lookup to report drivers on the road.

How to do an Alabama license plate lookup?

The appropriate time for the search of your license plate is within 20 days after purchasing your automobile.

Lookup can be done in several ways. You can visit the Alabama Department of Revenue (DOR) motor vehicle division personally. If you can’t, just mail or phone them. Online lookup is also possible. Due to the pandemic outbreak, however, it is advisable to do the transactions electronically.

Applying for License Plates in Alabama

Once you are done with your search, you can download the application for the government license form. Complete the vehicle and registrant information to get your plate number. You also need to apply for other forms and certificates like Alabama title, credit voucher, lease agreement and more, according to your vehicle status.

Another way is to use the online app to place your reservation. When the plate is ready, it will be sent to your local MVD office. Within 5 days you’ll have to visit the office, pay a specialty plate fee and get it. Some vehicles may apply for registration fee and ad valorem tax.

Options: personalized (custom) and vanity license plates

There are lots of specialty tags and license plate options. To make it clearer, you need to know the difference between personalized and vanity plates. Vanity plates contain only up to 3 numbers or only 1 to 7 letters. Personalized or custom plates contain both numbers and letters. 

Alabama Department of Revenue gives you the chance of online search to see the design and information about plates. The personalized license plate or tags are ordered on demand through the Plate Reservation and Ordering System. 

There are some special plate types available, including: military, distinctive, collegiate, vintage, and other personalized plate designs. To obtain any of them you must meet the requirements and pay the required fees. 

Alabama VIN lookup

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) consists of capital letters and digits. It is vital to do VIN lookup, if you plan to buy a vehicle, especially a used one. 

VIN is not like a plate number, it can tell you everything about the car in detail. It reveals the past of the vehicle: Maintenance and accident history, odometer settings, title history, lienholder and so on. You will also know how well it was kept before you.

Law enforcement and insurance companies also use this information.

License Plate Sizes in Alabama

Alabama uses digital license plate technology to produce plates. The plate sizes and other design specifications are given by Alabama law, but you can also find them on the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) guidelines. 

In fact the plates are manufactured in 2 sizes. The size of license plates for passenger vehicles, trucks, tractors and trailers are standard 6” X 12” and the motorcycle license plates are 4” X 7”.

Alabama License Plate Validity

According to Alabama law no license plate should be valid for more than 5 years. That’s why, even if there is no need, they change the plates every five years.

Besides, anyone who has already bought a new or used car in Alabama should get a vehicle tag or license plate within 20 days from the date of the purchase. Though, instead of a permanent license tag you can give the licensing official a temporary tag that lasts for 60 days. 

Surrendering License Plates in Alabama

You can surrender your plate to license plate issuing officials from your county. If you receive a Mandatory Liability Insurance (MLI) verification notice, you need to surrender the license plate within 30 days.

You’ll get a letter from the DMV with the exact date. The vehicle registration will be suspended if not done within the given period.

Renewing License Plates in Alabama

If drivers want to renew their license plates, they need to choose a registration month which is determined by the first letter of their last name.

Most counties of Alabama send a renewal notice beforehand. This notice contains a PIN which you’ll need for online renewal, the amount of the renewal fee, the name of the vehicle registrant and his/her address.

To renew in person go to the local title office with the required documents:

  • Vehicle’s current registration documents or the renewal notice 
  • Driver’s license
  • A payment for the renewal fee

What refers to online renewal you just need the PIN number. Only, not every county gives you the opportunity to do it online, in some cases you need to pay an additional fee for that.