Is it safe to share your VIN number and license plate?
If you're listing your car for sale, you may be hesitant to share your VIN in your ad or your license plate in photos. This article dives into why you don't need to worry about including this information and how sharing your VIN can actually help you sell your car faster. Federal regulations prohibit being able to find a car owner by VIN.
In Short: Yes, You Can Share Your VIN and License Plate Number
The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) was enacted in 1994 and prohibits your state's DMV from releasing personal information for a motor vehicle record. That means the DMV can face penalties for providing someone your name or address if given only your VIN or license plate number. Many states go beyond the requirements of the DPPA and further restrict data sharing to reduce their risk of violating this law.
The DMV can release this information to certain businesses, however. For example, a licensed dealership can look up your name with the intent to verify information you provided. Dealerships will often do this to verify you are the registered owner of a car you're trading in. Dealerships cannot release personal information to anybody else without your consent.
You might not be surprised that your VIN or license plate number is not personal information. After all, you can walk up to any car and write down the VIN (visible on the base of the windshield) or license plate number. License plates are designed to be clearly visible and even reflect at night. You do not need to worry about including your VIN in your ad or leaving your license plate visible in your photos when selling your car online.
When Selling Your Car
Should I Put My VIN number in My Ad?
Yes, you should always include your VIN in your ad when selling your car. This is not personal information and buyers cannot look up personal information if they have it. Including your VIN helps buyers verify the vehicle is advertised correctly and allows them to purchase vehicle history reports. Making it easy for buyers to do this simple research can be the difference between them reaching out to you for a test drive versus moving on to another car. Make it easy for buyers to research your car and include your VIN in your ad! If you need help, check out our article on clever places to find your VIN.
Should I Hide My License Plate in Photos?
We've discussed how your VIN can be helpful to buyers and how they can't get personal information from it, but what about your license plate number? The exact same Driver's Privacy Protection Act rules apply to license plate numbers. Anyone can easily look up your VIN from your license plate number, but they won't be able to look up any more information than they already get with your VIN.
Including your license plate in your photos isn't necessarily helpful to buyers, like VIN is, but there isn't much point in spending the time to obscure it. Covering your plate can make your photos look worse and good photos are key to attracting buyers.
About Andrew Crowell
Andrew is an avid car enthusiast, software engineer, and business leader in the automotive and e-commerce industry. He's owned a couple Mazda Miatas, an E46 M3, a Subaru WRX STI, and a Porsche 911 Turbo.