What is a VIN number and why is this important for car insurance?

What-is-a-VIN-number-and-why-is-this-important-for-car-insuranceWe have given much attention to vehicle security systems and the need to protect vehicles from vehicle loss through theft and hijacking. We have also discussed Datadot technology and how this enables the Police services to identify vehicles.

There is however also a more basic component in the vehicle essential to the identification of vehicles – the VIN number! The South African Insurance Crime Bureau has made available more information on the VIN number – and we would like to share this on the Car Insurance Blog.

What is a VIN?

Traditionally, a vehicle is identified through its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and/or chassis number. However, given the illicit market for stolen vehicles and parts, this number is easily filed off and changed. This allows stolen or hijacked vehicles to be relicensed under a new identity, the parts to be sold, or the vehicle to be exported.

The VIN is used for the definitive identification of a motor vehicle. It enables the manufacturer to be identified, the vehicle type, the individual production serial number and, in most cases the year of the vehicle model to be established. The VIN is normally machine-applied to the vehicle during the production process at the manufacturing plant. Tuning companies constitute an exception to this rule as they normally stamp the VIN on by hand, although even in these cases a complete identification is always possible.

Different vehicle makes and types have the VIN in different places. From roughly 1980 onwards, all VINs have consisted of 17 characters and commenced in all cases with the World Manufacturer Identifier Code (WMI) for each individual manufacturer, for example WDB for Daimler Chrysler.

With a VIN, a motor vehicle can be looked up and checked in police and vehicles registration records. To do this it is necessary to have the complete VIN.

Tampering with the VIN number

However, the VIN is the number or code that is often tampered with as it is of crucial importance to identify any vehicle. Each manufacturer places this unique number in both visible and non-visible positions for identification purposes. The VIN is placed in a prominent non-removable position on a vehicle’s bodywork or chassis and also on a plate fixed to the same bodywork. The modern trend is to put the vehicle details onto a sticker and not a plate. If the sticker is tampered with or someone tries to remove it, it is destroyed, in the process indicating foul play to the authorities. Common methods used to alter a VIN include:

  • Grinding and re-stamping
  • Removal and replacement of the component on which the VIN is situated
  • Over-stamping or altering one or more characters of the VIN.

Most stolen vehicles are intended for the South African market. To be able to sell the vehicles in South Africa, the original identity of the vehicles needs to be changed or concealed. The easier it is to remove or conceal the identity of a vehicle, the more desirable the vehicle will be to criminals.

Investigations have proved that in almost all vehicle-related crimes, the primary and secondary identifiers (licence number, VIN and engine number) have been altered or removed in order to conceal a crime or the identity of the vehicle. The VIN of a so-called scrap vehicle is frequently used to give another vehicle a false identity.

What is a SAPVIN?

A SAPVIN (South African Police Vehicle Identification Number) can only be issued by the SAPS in accordance with the Road Traffic Regulation 56, promulgated in terms of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996. The SAPVIN is a number that is uniquely generated by the SAPS vehicle circulation system. The SAPVIN consists of 17 alpha-numerical characters that are affixed to the chassis and 11 alpha-numerical characters that are affixed to the engine. A SAPV1N is issued when a vehicle does not have a VIN, an engine number, when a VIN or engine number has been duplicated or when a VIN or engine number has been altered, defaced or obliterated.

Conclusion and Advice

All vehicle owners should take the utmost care to avoid car insurance claims by protecting themselves from vehicle loss through theft and hijacking. This requires a holistic approach and attention to many different security elements:

  • Vehicle security systems
  • DataDot technology
  • Tracking devices
  • Attention to parking your vehicle safely
  • Having effective car insurance etc..

We will strive to provide information that could assist vehicle owners not only in finding the best car insurance products, but also to keep their vehicles safe both on and off the roads!!

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