UK Vehicle OSINT
Recently I have tweeted some of my Top Tips on how to conduct OSINT on UK vehicles. I have decided to write a Blog and tie it all together.
It is really easy to find out basic information about a vehicle in the UK by searching the many websites available, you will always be able to find out the make, model, colour and year of registration. The below link will allow you to search the DVSA, this where the websites use the DVSA API to pull their data:
The new style UK registration plates were introduced by the DVSA in September 2001, the local office where a vehicle was registered, would determine the first two letters in the registration plate; followed by two numbers that determined the year of registration, followed by three random letters.
Up until 2013 the DVSA had local offices where vehicles could be registered in person, however these have now all closed and everything is done on line. The DVSA though still uses the local office identifiers when registering new cars. From an OSINT perspective this, gives us a starting point if we have a new or nearly new vehicle to research. Clearly there will be numerous caveats, for example a person may not buy a car in the area they live.
See the below article for a more in-depth read on how UK registration plates are made up and the local identifiers:
If you are researching new vehicles or vehicles where the owner has bought a private registration plate, then there are some OSINT tips to be had.
In the UK when a vehicle registration plate is made, it is now a legal requirement that the name and postcode of the business that is making the plate is placed at the bottom, Fig 1.1.
Now, it can be hit and miss what you will find, in my research the postcode appears to be the constant, the business name is not always present, sometimes you will get the business address.
You can find the Royal Mail address by entering the postcode in to Royal Mail website:
There are many websites in the UK, where you can enter a vehicle registration number and obtain basic details of a vehicle. No doubt the information is all sourced from the DVSA. If you want to pay a fee you can find out more detailed information. One website that is slightly different, in that it provides as part of the basic information, a place of first registration, Fig 1.2.
For older vehicles it can be a little bit harder, vehicles are bought and sold, so the ownership of them moves around the country.
A general rule, is that UK vehicles, 3 years or older have to have an annual MOT check to ensure that they are road worthy. At the following site you can check the MOT status of a UK vehicle:
This will give you the MOT history for your vehicle of interest, as shown in, Fig 1.3.
You will see that there is an MOT test number beginning 5747, this is unique to the MOT of the vehicle in question. You may or may not be surprised that there are a lot of MOT certificates online, try filetype:pdf, as an advanced search operator.
Below is the MOT certificate for the test above, Fig 1.4. I have redacted certain details however what I can say is that it will provide you with the location of where the vehicle had its MOT, again a starting point of where the location of the town, city etc of where the vehicle owner may live.
If you had the 11 digit V5C number, you can also use that to find out where a vehicle had, had its MOT.
I mentioned previously it is easy to find basic information on a UK vehicle by visiting the official DVSA site:
A vehicle in the UK will ordinarily require a V5C log book, which has the details of the vehicle and registered keeper on it. These are issued when a vehicle is sold to a new owner.
When you are researching an older vehicle pay particular attention to when the V5C log book was last issued, Fig 1.5.
For those of you who have a keen eye, you will have noticed that the above MOT certificate was from 2021. This means we have to be careful with our assumptions of where we think the vehicle owner maybe located, however as you can see from above, the V5C was last issued in 2012, so we can be more assured that our assumption maybe correct.
Hopefully the above is a good starting point for UK vehicle OSINT.