VIN-Lookup website launched to protect car buyers

The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) has launched a website for consumers to check on the status of a vehicle in the industry’s vehicle salvage database.

Named VIN-Lookup, access is free to consumers and is designed to help them determine if a second-hand vehicle has been deemed unsalvageable.

Consumers need to complete three fields on the screen: name, identity number and vehicle identification number (VIN). If the VIN is found on the database, the user will see a short narrative about the vehicle. For example, text that looks similar to the following: “The vehicle was deregistered as demolished because it had irreparable structural damage that could not be repaired to a safe and roadworthy state and no major components could be used for vehicle spare parts.”

SAIA manager for insurance risks Zakes Sondiyazi said: “The launch of VIN-Lookup is a contribution of the non-life insurers to address the problem of purchasing unsafe repaired cars from vehicle salvage houses.

“SAIA urges consumers to use VIN-Lookup as part of thorough research when buying a used car rather than treating it as a single solution to understanding the history of a vehicle.”

Sondiyazi says that beyond the use of VIN-Lookup, buyers of used or damaged vehicles should employ expert service providers and use roadworthy test facilities. Physical inspection of a salvage vehicle by a trained professional remains the best option.

The vehicle salvage database from which information is drawn for VIN-Lookup contains records that show how insurance companies have designated previously insured vehicles. The database does not contain a comprehensive record of all vehicles and their status. Full records of all vehicles, insured or not, are only held on the NaTIS system that falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation.


The information provided through VIN-Lookup is considered complete at the time it was in the possession of the information owner, the insurance company. But the status returned is in no way a reflection of the quality of repair nor roadworthiness of the vehicle.

“We always recommend that you have any vehicle checked by a qualified third party to ensure it is roadworthy and repaired to an acceptable standard,” said Sondiyazi.

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SAIA CEO Viviene Pearson said: “Of the 14 million registered vehicles in South Africa, less than a third are insured. The industry’s vehicle salvage data will thus include less than 3% of vehicles that are written off – these are vehicles that can either be rebuilt, or only used for spare parts, or demolished.”  — © 2023 NewsCentral Media

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