Federal Certification Label is Missing

Federal Certification Label is Missing

If the federal certification label is missing, damaged, or removed from your passenger vehicle it is NOT a small detail to ignore. This label is a key identifier that is used in conjunction with your public VIN(the VIN on the window – or another location that is easily seen from outside of the vehicle). It certifies that a truck, motorcycle, trailer, or car conforms to FMVSS standards (federal motor vehicle safety standards). Furthermore, most manufacturers do not have a replacement for this label.  When it comes to a VIN verification if the US Federal certification Label is gone then only a CHP officer can perform the VIN verification – making it just a little harder for your car, truck, motorcycle or trailer to be registered.

What is the federal certification label?

Per the NTEA’s website: “The certification label is part of the vehicle certification process and is a federal-level requirement that applies to all motor vehicles up to the first retail sale (meaning, up to the point a vehicle is licensed and titled in a given state). When a certification label is applied, it means the completed vehicle meets all relevant Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For the manufacturer, affixing the label is the last step in the certification process.”

In other words, it’s a very important label. It makes sense why manufacturers are not so readily issuing these labels out – because this is in essence a part of the car and plays a very huge role in identifying the vehicle. Furthermore, this label has data that includes the gross vehicle weight rating which is extremely important information when deciding how much of a load your vehicle can take.

 Where is the federal certification label located?

  • For nearly all automobiles or trucks whose country of manufacture was for USA or Canada consumers, this label is located on the driver’s door. In my experience, I have not seen this label affixed anywhere else for your standard automobile or commercial vehicle.

  • us federal label for a nissan

  • For motorcycles, you usually will find this label located on the steering column. Unfortunately, with motorcycles, there is no set place where this sticker is located, and sometimes may be difficult to locate.

  • motorcycle federal label

  • For trailers, you will usually find this label on the driver’s side of the body of the trailer itself.

  • federal certification label

  • For motorhomes, it is located inside of the vehicle itself, adhered to the wall of the vehicle next to the driver side door.

A missing label could indicate the following:

  • The passenger vehicle was tampered with.

  • The vehicle may have been reconstructed with parts from another car, possibly a stolen vehicle.

  • The previous owner had the door replaced.

  • Someone painted over it.

Things to note:

  1.  Pre-1970 vehicles do not have this label – so the model year of your vehicle will determine if it’s supposed to have one.

  2. Vehicles manufactured in other countries, with some exceptions (Canda & Mexico), do not make this label.

  3. Bringing in a vehicle into California that is post-1970 and doesn’t have that label will need to be inspected by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). 

Scenarios where a federal label is missing, damaged, or altered:

  1. A body shop painted over your label due to carelessness or laziness. This is such a common thing – it is shocking to see how many body shops mess this one up.

  2. Someone is trying to swap VINs

  3. The doors were swapped for one reason or another (door replacement).

  4. Particularly for trailers, the label becomes faded because of the sun, salt, and exposure to the elements. An example of this is shown below

Buying a Car Without a Federal Certificate Label

Although a missing label should not preclude you from buying a car, you should take precautions to carefully inspect the car for alternative VIN number locations. Many vehicles have a secondary VIN under the hood, on the doors, or in different parts of the vehicle. Buying a car without a label will not get you in trouble, however, it is imperative that you do your due diligence and try to match up what you can. First, look at the following locations and try to match them up to titling documents:

  1. The VIN on the windshield

  2. The VIN on the chassis (sometimes this is very hard to get to)

  3. The door jambs for all doors – some manufacturers place a silver sticker with the VIN on there.

  4. The engine compartment

  5. The glove box in rare cases

Give the car an inspection yourself before committing to buy to avoid issues with having your car registered.

Registering your out of state vehicles in California

vin verification out of state transfer
vin verification out of state transfer

We are closely associated with a registration service called Quick Auto Tags – call them to get your car licensed & titled. Listed below are some of the other requirements & documents you will need to complete the registration process in California after your vehicle has been VINverified:

  1. Your out-of-state title, MSO (manufacturer’s statement of origin), or registration card (if you’re only registering your car).

  2. For all gas-powered & some diesel-powered vehicles, you must get a smog check.

  3. For commercial vehicles, pickup trucks (this includes small pickups, like El Caminos) you must get a California Weight-master Certificate.

  4. For all cars, trucks, coach trailers, and most PTI trailers (some exceptions apply with PTI trailers)

  5. PTI trailer exception: If you have a brand new trailer that falls within the permanent trailer category, and it has an MSO, and it was purchased out of state, you will not have to get one

CHP VIN Verification

quick vin verification chp

When your label is missing, damaged, or removed – only the California highway patrol can do your VIN verification. Per DMV website – VIN MEMO 2017-08 (link provided HERE):

“Only the California Highway Patrol (CHP) may search for an alternate vehicle identification number (VIN) and complete the Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form when the U.S. Federal Certificate Label is missing, illegible, or damaged.”


“If the U.S. Federal Certificate Label is missing, illegible, or damaged, refer the vehicle to CHP for verification. Do not search for an alternate VIN or reference an alternate VIN on the REG 31.”

Unfortunately, this means that Quick VIN Verification, the DMV, AAA and any other private VIN verifier company cannot take care of your VIN verification – only the CHP can.

If you have further questions about CHP Vin verifications please click here.

What Do you Do if the Label is Missing?

us federal label questions

Here are a few links to some thread of people who had their labels missing – these real-life examples show you just how common this issue is, and also, how ultimately, it isn’t that bad of a thing – it will be a minor inconvenience for the most part:

Aftermarket Replacement US Federal CDertification Label

Not all manufacturers have a rule against generating replacement labels. It is advisable that you contact your manufacturer’s dealer before you look for aftermarket replacements. Listed below are a few companies that will help you get a replacement label:

If you have more questions regarding this post, such as VIN verifiers in Los Angeles, you can complete the form below and send us your questions. We will respond to you as soon as we can.

Want to learn more? Click here on The Ultimate Guide to VIN Verifications & VIN Verifiers

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