I previously wrote a blog on an issue that had recently been a major problem for VIN verifiers and registration services that were verifying & registering pre-1970 vehicles. That blog post is here: Important news on California's new rules for VIN verifiers . The issue was that we were essentially prohibited from doing VIN verifications on pre-1970 vehicles because of VIN Memo VIN 2017-08. This memo caused major confusing, because it conflicted with the new version of the VIN verification form (REG31). The new form implied that we can actually do VIN verifications on pre-1970 vehicles - but the memo's language itself was vague that it made it so DMV offices were rejecting our VIN verifications because the vehicles we were verifying did not have a US Federal Certification Label. Keep in mind, most older vehicles did not have that label, it was not a standard at that time. This all had to do with the secondary VIN, and how private VIN verifiers were NOT trained to locate the secondary VIN. However, most of the older cars didn't have a secondary VIN, and if they did, it would be a partial VIN & not a full VIN.
Here's a picture of a US Federal Certification Label:
First and foremost, thank you to all of the customers that have called, emailed or texted me and hired me to do their VIN verification! I have been a VIN verifier for about 4 years now and it has been very enjoyable meeting new people, seeing new cars and helping customers solve their DMV problems!
This week's "car of the week" goes to Keith from Whittier.. this is a 1954 Ford F350 - this picture does not do it justice: THIS IS A BIG TRUCK. The metal is in excellent condition - all things considered - and is ready for the upgrades Keith wants to do it.
So what is a VIN verification? It is a physical inspection of your vehicle that is documented on the VIN verification form REG31. The DMV may require that you get a VIN verification for certain vehicles & certain situations. If for instance you have an out-of-state vehicle, the DMV requires that you have your vehicle verified by a DMV employee, a CHP officer or a licensed mobile VIN verifier. It is important to note that a VIN verification is NOT a Carfax report, nor is it a NMVTIS report(National Motor Vehicle Title Information System) - both of the aforementioned reports detail vehicle history or the title/brand status of a vehicle; these reports are more for a consumer that is interested in confirming the history of a vehicle. A VIN verification is NOT a history report, but rather an inspection of the year, make, model, body type model (body configuration), GVRW (gross vehicle weight), mileage, whether or not the Federal Certification Label is present, an emissions label and, above all and most importantly the VIN and where it is attached to.
Since the beginning of summer there have been some changes to the VIN verification form, REG 31, and the issuance of MEMO VIN 2017-08 that have caused a lot of confusion among the DMV, the CHP and private VIN verifiers like myself. It is my opinion that the flood of military vehicles that came into California had caused the DMV & the CHP to revise procedures, forms and issue memos to revise how these vehicles were being verified & registered. This, in my opinion, brought other vehicles into the attention of the CHP & DMV: pre-1970 vehicles. The MEMO VIN 2017-08 states "only the California Highway Patrol (CHP) may search for an alternative vehicle identification number (VIN) and complete the Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form when the U.S. Federal Certification Label is missing, illegible, or damaged." Well, pre-1970 vehicles did not have this label, so therefore, this memo brings our old Chevys and Fords and Pontiacs into the scope of what this memo was referring to. However, a month later or so, the VIN verification form, the REG 31 form, was revised. The form has a box that you could check where it asked for the Federal label, and if it were pre-1970, it did NOT apply, so you checked the box that said "pre-1970". The form itself leads one to believe that we can now verify pre-1970 vehicles again, because it acknowledges that these vehicles did not have the federal label to begin with, so it would remove these vehicles out of the scope of MEMO VIN 2017-08, and therefore, it would not apply to them. However, according to the DMV, that is NOT the case. What is happening right now is that several of the transactions we have processed, and other transactions that others have processed, are being kicked back and are requesting that the VIN verification be re-done by the CHP. Because there has been no memo to address this issue, MEMO VIN 2017-08 still stands.
In my experience, and as the DMV’s & CHP’s website indicates, when you are referred to the CHP for a VIN verification it is for a few of the following reasons:
- Your vehicle falls into a category of vehicles that have “a high probability of the vehicle having identification numbers (VIN) switched or being used for stolen parts” – this is directly from the CHP’s website.
- Your vehicle is salvage/junked.
- You are missing your Federal Certification Label and there is no primary VIN
- Motorcycles that had previously been registered in CA but fell off of the DMV system due to inactivity or a motorcycle that is having an engine swap.
In essence the VIN verifications the CHP conduct involve more scrutiny – they are not simply attempting to locate a VIN – but what they are trying to determine is if there is evidence of tampering, altering or swapping of VINs. The DMV can conduct these verifications as well, however, if they feel the need to, they will refer you to the CHP for a more in depth inspection. This is why there are vehicles which licensed VIN verifiers like myself are PROHIBITED from verifying vehicles that fall into the categories listed above. It is also mentioned on the CHP’s website that local CHP and DMV offices discuss and determine what type of vehicle will AUTOMATICALLY be referred to the CHP – these are your newer Toyotas, Hondas and maybe even Nissans – late model vehicles that have been salvaged or junked.
You will notice that with the reasons I have listed above there is the potential of parts being swapped out or VINs to be re-assigned to other vehicles. This is one of the “tricks” that car thieves use – they steal a car from out of state and have the VIN tags from a junked or salvaged vehicle re-assigned to the stolen vehicle. To the un-trained eye this vehicle will pass the inspection, however, to the trained eye, they would’ve stopped the registration of a stolen vehicle. It is good to see that the DMV and the CHP have mechanisms in place to halt and deter theft. The CHP has a few other programs that are un-related to VIN verifications, however, they are for the public good – such as the random inspections of heavy commercial vehicles.
When a customer comes into my office with paperwork indicating that it was referred to the CHP I automatically advise the customer to not look for alternatives to the CHP because if it was referred there it was for a reason. However, I will admit that sometimes the DMV refers to the CHP “just because”. This is an issue because getting the CHP to verify your vehicle requires an appointment, and to get an appointment at your average CHP goes weeks out, unless you are lucky, or have a “copy buddy”. Also, the requirements that the CHP has are not like one for a licensed VIN verifier or DMV tech, they will sometimes require that you have receipts & documentation to substantiate the claims that are being made to ensure that no fraud is being committed and no stolen parts are being used.
As a consumer, after learning these things about CHP verifications – I will strongly advise the following: do your due diligence. If you are purchasing a vehicle from a “curbstoner” – an unlicensed car dealer/car flipper – dudes that sell cars off of Craigslist – and you see a “salvage certificate” – do your due diligence. I strongly advise that you stay away from “curbstoners”, however, the reality is that people will continue to buy from them. Contact a registration service like ours and come in with the paperwork before you commit to buying; let us verify that you have the proper paperwork. Also, insist that the inspection be done prior to the sale being complete. Make certain that the paperwork burden is complete prior to you buying the vehicle.
Want to learn more? Click here on The Ultimate Guide to VIN Verifications & VIN Verifiers
What do most trailer companies do to put the VIN on a trailer? They use a label that is adhered with some sort of adhesive. The problem with this is that the exposure to sun, dirt & water will destroy the label over time. It has been the case with several of my customers that they have a really faded label – so much so that at times it is impossible for me to do the VIN verification. Sometimes I have to look at the label at the right angle to be able to see the VIN. Furthermore, anyone can simply take a blade, metal brush, and some Goof-off or other type of dissolvent and take that sticker right off.
Now you may be wondering why this has been something I’ve wanted to write about for so long. The number 1 reason is for fraud & theft prevention. When you make it easy for a thief to swap or remove VINs you make it easy for them to re-register the trailer without detection by law enforcement or fellow VIN verifiers. Most trailers don’t stand out too much so it is easy for someone to steal your trailer and drive away with little to no problem – because most trailers look alike!
Another reason I think this issue needs to be better addressed by trailer companies is that an owner of a trailer can be the owner for several years and when they decide to sell it off to a new buyer the sale may not go through because the VIN is not visible – making buyers reluctant to buy. It is not an issue that many owners of trailers think of right away because they are not thinking about selling it right away, but it is something to keep in mind – always think of what may happen.
Just recently I verified a $100,000 trailer – YES - $100,000 car hauler for a customer that owns a race team – and I could not locate the VIN – I had to contact the manufacturer who told me that the VIN is underneath the trailer, on a metal rail, and that not all of the VIN was there, it was only partial. Think about that for one second: you have a $100,000 trailer that can easily be stolen and re-titled in another state or country by simply removing the Federal Label and stamping a VIN on it. It is too easy – and trailer companies need to wake up to this problem.
Another customer of mine who owns a janitorial business had his trailer taken from right in front of his house - $25,000 worth of equipment was stolen along with the trailer itself. A stamped VIN all over the trailer would not have prevented this crime, however, it certainly wouldn’t make it easier for the criminal to re-register the trailer.
What should your take aways from this be? Well, outside of my blog I have not heard anyone else address this issue. There is no public voice that is putting pressure on the trailer manufacturers and also this isn’t a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed. However, if you are reading this article, and you own a trailer – protect your assets. Take the necessary precautions to prevent theft and make it harder on the criminal. Here are a few suggestions:
- Look for a company that does metal etching: you can order a few metal plates made for you with your VIN number on it and have a welder weld them to your trailer. I would suggest you get ridiculous with it and make one or two of the metal VIN tags large and have a few more welded around the trailer’s metal frame.
- Use a clear silicone waterproof sealant on your Federal Label: spray something like Loctite or any other similar product to protect the VERY important Federal Label. This label is important and you cannot simply request a duplicate for it. With water and the sun hitting it, direct exposure to the elements will drastically reduce its lifespan.
- Make heavy duty, industrial strength stickers for your trailer: if you want to take another approach, go ahead and have stickers made – but make sure that they are heavy duty and are capable to withstand the elements and make sure that they are very hard to remove!
- Have a painter paint your face on your trailer – now this last one will probably ensure that no one steals your trailer – ever – but I’m just kidding! J
- If you have any questions or suggestions please contact me. If you need a VIN verification done on your permanent trailer, coach trailer or camp trailer – give me a call and I will get it done!