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Finding License Plate Patterns

How much vehicle information can be gathered from a blurry security camera photo?

The initial information provided for this search were the vehicle images below, as well as the person stating they think this could be California plates. 

First looking at this image, there is a lot of information available immediately. Obviously the license plate information is blurry, but some of the characters can somewhat be read or at least guessed. Aside from the license plate numbers, the vehicle make and model is also important. Luckily, one of the more obvious elements of this image is the Nissan logo on the back.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about cars to easily identify a specific make and model from an image, but that is where the List of Nissan vehicles Wikipedia page comes in! This page lists about 52 different Nissan models, then we can assume this specific vehicle will likely be found in the SUV/Crossover category. At first, a lot of these models look very similar, but something that stands out to me with the vehicle we are looking at is that it is very boxy and angular. 

So after some comparisons, I started focusing on the possibility that the vehicle could be a Nissan Armada. However, the image on Wikipedia is the front of the vehicle, and we only have the back to compare. Some of the more obvious characteristics on the back of this car to me would be the large bumper lip that pops out from the rest of the back end, the square tail lights, the two rectangular shapes beneath the tail lights as well as the dark rectangular shaped piece between them, and even the square indention and metallic lip around the license plate. Looking for any of these specific shapes and finding them all together will help guarantee you have the correct vehicle.

After searching Google images for "back of Nissan armada" these two images immediately come up on the first few rows of results. All the most obvious features from the initial images are also present in these images, making it pretty clear we are probably looking for a Nissan Armada. What about the year of the vehicle, though? This information will be vital for later confirming possible license plate numbers.

When performing various combinations of "back of 20xx Nissan armada" on Google images, it appears the only matches could be a 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020. These all appear identical while the 2016 and 2021 have obvious design differences, although the search results may not be completely accurate, this gives us a manageable range to start with.

Now that we have a possible make, model and year range to go off of for this vehicle, we can start looking into the possible license plate number. First, we have to determine the plate's possible state, as they each have different designs and formats. We already know they most likely are California plates and can confirm this using the United States license plate designs and serial formats Wikipedia page.

Seeing as the design and formatting seems to match, we can continue our search assuming the format of the plates is 1ABC234. The first thing I did from here is type out my best guesses of each possible character in a spreadsheet, as well as a reminder of the required format to stick to.

Obviously there could be numerous possible combinations we are already looking at, so to make it easier I set conditional formatting for the column where I'll be entering these combinations so that if I repeat any of the characters I've already entered, it will turn green, so I'm only testing each combination once and not wasting time by unknowingly repeating any. An example of the formula I'm using in Google Sheets is =COUNTIF(x:x)>1, saying count if anything appears more than once across the range given. Below is this conditional formula in action.

Once I had a decent amount of plate combinations to go off of, I started searching the plates online to see what the vehicle matches were and see if I could get any hits on the same vehicle I'm looking for, a Nissan Armada, within the year 2017-2020, either silver or white in color. To do these license plate information lookups, I used a paid database, BeenVerified as well as a free one, FAXVIN. Both were vital to this search, as they often produced varying results. If one search came up with nothing, the other likely gave me some information to go off of, as seen below when searching for the 8KCH985 - CA plates.

Unfortunately, sometimes both of these searches would produce no results. In this case, I would record these results in the spreadsheet as "No Records". Sometimes FAXVIN would also only show the VIN when searching the license plate number, in this case I would just navigate to the VIN search feature and this would provide additional vehicle information.

As you can see from the image above, when searching FAXVIN there is a make, model, year and other information available. Then you can see below, this information plus color is also available when searching on BeenVerified.

So with all this information and these tools in hand, I began typing out every combination of license plate numbers I could guess from the images provided. As I did this, I also searched the combinations in the two databases listed, and recorded all the information found in the spreadsheet. This is when I began noticing patterns in the results.

Filtering some of the results by the C column from A-Z you can see some of these patterns. The 2019 Tesla Model 3 only has two matches but these both start with 8KCxxxx, then looking at the 2019 Nissan Rogue results, these start with 8KGR98x, four different vehicles, same make, model and year and almost identical license plate numbers.  

Above, you can see that there were 16 results matching a 2020 Nissan Armada. These also all match a pattern of 8MGR9xx. And of all the possible colors, I think it's safe to assume Brilliant Silver Metallic is the best match for our vehicle in question. So this leaves 5 license plate combinations of the ones I've guessed and typed out. 

8MGR920, 8MGR981, 8MGR987, 8MGR990, and 8MGR991. Now, looking back at the original license plate image, I feel that 8MGR9 is easily identifiable, it's just the last two digits that need to be determined. And of the five possible options, it is in my opinion that 2 0 matches more than 8 1, 8 7, 9 0, or 9 1.

And that is how I determined the most likely license plate number, as well as the make and model of a vehicle based off a blurry picture. The most interesting part of this to me was the patterns identified with the similar license plate numbers matching the same make and model of a vehicle. I tried to do further research into this but could not find any other data suggesting or explaining these types of patterns, although I believe based off my own experiences that this is not exactly common or at least not commonly known. If this could be identified as a common theme with license plate numbers across the United States, it could prove extremely helpful for various types of research. Thank you for reading this article and feel free to use the Contact page for any questions, comments or concerns.