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You can find a Vehicle Identification Number or "VIN" on an Insurance Card, Vehicle Title or on the vehicle itself by looking through the windshield at the dashboard on the driver's side.

History of the Vehicle Identification Number "VIN"
In the mid 1950's American automobile manufacturers began stamping and casting identifying numbers on cars and their parts. The vehicle identification number has become referred to as the "VIN". The obvious purpose was to give an accurate description of the vehicle when mass production numbers were starting to climb in very significant numbers. Research has shown that early Vin's came in all sorts of variations which depended on the individual manufacturer at that time.

In the early 1980's the National highway Traffic Safety Administration (U.S. Dept. of Transport) required that all road vehicles must contain a 17 character VIN. This established the fixed VIN system for major vehicle manufacturers as it is known today. Thus, establishing a unique "DNA" style number for each unique vehicle which rolled off the assembly line.

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Vehicle Identification Numbers
A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17 character number. VINs are used in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the United States and other countries. They’re the main way vehicles are identified for administrative purposes.

All newly registered and re-registered vehicles must have a VIN as well as a registration number. The VIN can be:

  • stamped into the vehicle structure (often the firewall) during manufacture, or
  • stamped on a metal plate and fixed onto the vehicle body, or
  • etched onto the rear window of the vehicle.

Why not use the registration number?

Registration numbers aren’t permanently attached to a vehicle. Personalised number plates, for example, can be traded and move from one vehicle to another. VINs, on the other hand, remain attached to the vehicle. This makes them a better form of vehicle identification.

Vehicles are identified by the registration plate number, which is linked on the Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) computer system to a VIN.

Why not frame or chassis numbers?
Each make of vehicle uses a different frame or chassis numbering system. The systems don’t match each other, and sometimes numbers are duplicated. There’s an internationally recognised code for VINs, so they’re standardised for all vehicles.

Do VINs affect vehicle owners?
Mostly, no. New vehicles must have a VIN attached before they’re sold, and it’s the manufacturer’s or importer’s responsibility to supply the numbers.

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How are VINs used?
VINs are a security feature. They help to combat fraud and ensure that information about a vehicle’s roadworthiness isn’t entered against the wrong vehicle. VINs are checked against the MVR database at each Warrant of Fitness or Certificate of Fitness inspection. Because they’re on-line all VIN records are centralised and highly accessible. It’s very difficult for incorrect records (through genuine error or for criminal purposes) to be accepted by the system.

Owners of existing vehicles can choose to have VINs attached (it isn’t compulsory).

What about second-hand imports?
Some imported second-hand vehicles have VINs already attached. As long as the number conforms with the approved standard (and is unique) it will be accepted as the required identification. When an imported vehicle already has a VIN number, it’s the importer’s responsibility to give the LTSA sufficient information to decode it.

Which organisations can issue VINs?
Transport Services Delivery (TSD) agents, appointed by the LTSA.

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