Quick VIN Verifications Blog

Quick VIN Verifications Blog

DMV & CHP rules regarding the VIN verification of pre-1970 vehicles

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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:


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CHP VIN Verifications

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As mentioned in my other blogs, outside of the DMV & licensed VIN verifiers like myself, the next group of people that can verify your vehicle are peace officers, more specifically, the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The REG 31 form indicates that a DMV employee, licensed VIN verifier, or peace officer can verify your vehicle – so if you have a cop buddy, they can do a VIN verification for you as well – however, sometimes they don’t know how to do it and it results in you having to re-do it (I’ve seen it happen several times before).
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. 
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Want to learn more? Click here on The Ultimate Guide to VIN Verifications & VIN Verifiers