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The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN is a unique 17-character alphanumeric identifier.

In 1981 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States standardised the format. It required the production of all on-road vehicles sold, after 1981, to contain a 17-character VIN to uniquely identify each vehicle sold.

The 17-character VIN does not include the letters I (i), O(o) and Q (q) to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0.

The standardisation of the VIN defined in International Organisation for Standardisation catalogue ISO 3379 [Road vehicles - Vehicle Identification number (VIN) - Content and Structure], and also inherits ISO 3780 [Road vehicles - World Manufacture identifier (WMI) code]

All vehicles sold in Australia since 1 January 1989, excluding plant, are required to have a VIN under the Commonwealth Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989.

A VIN must be clearly stamped, embossed or otherwise permanently marked on a substantial part of a vehicle's frame or body.

As each VIN is unique and contains structured details about the vehicle, it was designed to make the modification of that unique identifier and the re-sale of stolen vehicles more difficult.

It is the primary identifier used when searching for a car or other vehicle on PPSR.

The VIN generally can be located on the body of the vehicle, under the bonnet, at the bottom of the windscreen on the passenger side, or along the drivers side door closure area.

Prior to 1989, the Chassis number is a serial number which must be used for consumer property including:

  • Motor vehicle
  • Watercraft
  • Aircraft

A Motor vehicle for the purposes of requiring a Chassis number has a unique serial number and:

  • up to the end of 30 June 2014 (the old definition) is also capable of travelling at more than 10km/hr OR has a total motor power greater than 200W.
  • starting on 1 July 2014 (the new definition) the property is also capable of travelling at more than 10km/hr AND has a total motor power greater than 200W.

The Chassis number is made up of a series of numbers/letters that are attached or stamped on the vehicle's chassis by the vehicle manufacturer to identify the vehicle.

Alternatively, the vehicle should a manufacturer's number, containing a series of numbers/letters that are stamped or attached to a motor vehicle by its manufacturer.

Some imported vehicles do not have a 17-character VIN. Examples include a number of Japanese vehicles that use the chassis number as their identifying serial number.

If the vehicle is intended to be registered for on-road use, if it was manufactured after 1 January 1989, it will need a 17 character VIN so that the vehicle can be registered.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (the Department) is the responsible authority that will issue a VIN for imported vehicles under 500 per year. NEVDIS (National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System) is responsible for importations exceeding 500 vehicles.

Combining of existing state and Commonwealth registers into a single PPS register, the PPSR, provides everyone an increased level of transparency on financial security on personal property.

The Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) enables people to make more informed financial decisions - whether it's a bank lending money to a business, a new driver buying their first car, or somebody selling goods on consignment.

The PPSR helps to address irregularities of information between, for example, borrowers and prospective lenders, and sellers and prospective buyers of used vehicles. Not all information may be volunteered by seller or borrower.

If your PPSR search shows that no debt is registered on the PPSR for the vehicle you are buying and you then choose to buy or lease the vehicle on the day of the search or the next day, you usually take the vehicle free of encumbrances or debt.

You should complete your search the day or the day before you purchase your car to ensure you receive the protection that a search of the PPSR can provide.

If you conduct your PPSR search for personal property on the day, or the day before, you intend to purchase it, you help ensure you are purchasing free from encumbrance.

When searching the PPSR by a motor vehicle serial number, make sure you enter the correct serial number. For example, if a motor vehicle has both a vehicle identification number (VIN) and a chassis number, you should search using the VIN. The PPSR provides guidance to help you enter the correct serial number.

If someone else has conducted a search and provides you with a copy of the certificate you can verify the details online at myPPSR.com.au. Do not rely on someone else's copy of the certificate.

The Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (Cth) (PPS Act) provides protections for buyers. Buyers and lessees will generally take personal property free of any security interests if the property is of a kind that must or may be described by a serial number, and the buyer searches the PPSR immediately before the time of sale or lease using the serial number only, and the security interest is not disclosed.

This protection does not apply if the buyer or lessee holds the property as inventory (or on behalf of someone who holds it as inventory), or was a party to the transaction that created the security interest.

If the collateral is a motor vehicle, section 45 of the PPS Act provides that a buyer or lessee will generally take the motor vehicle free of any security interest if:

  • at any time between the time the motor vehicle was sold or leased and the start of the previous day a search of the PPSR by reference only to the serial number would not have disclosed a registration which perfected the interest; and
  • the seller or lessor is either the person who granted the security interest, or another person who is in possession of the vehicle (provided the person who granted the security interest has lost the right to possess the motor vehicle or is stopped from asserting an interest in the vehicle).

The above protection does not apply if:

  • the secured party is in possession of the motor vehicle immediately before the time of the sale or lease; or
  • the motor vehicle is bought at a sale held by or on behalf of an execution creditor; or
  • the buyer or lessee holds the motor vehicle as inventory; or on behalf of a person who would hold the motor vehicle as inventory; or
  • the buyer or lessee buys or leases the motor vehicle with actual or constructive knowledge of the security interest.

Section 45(3) of the PPS Act provides that a buyer or lessee will generally take the motor vehicle free of any security interests if they provide new value for the motor vehicle and the seller or lessor holds a licence (issued by the state or territory where the sale or lease happens) to deal in that kind of motor vehicle.

To search for a vehicle this can be three ways, the VIN or Chassis number or Manufacturer's number.

  • If the motor vehicle has a VIN, enter the VIN. A VIN is the 17 character identifier recorded on most vehicles built after 1988.
  • If the motor vehicle does not have a VIN with 17 characters, you should enter the Chassis number. If you are searching a pre-1989 vehicle, the vehicle identifier is a Chassis number.
  • If the motor vehicle does not have either a VIN or a Chassis number it may have a Manufacturer's number, click here to conduct a search by Manufacturer's number.

An encumbrance relating to a vehicle being searched upon means that the vehicle has outstanding finance, i.e. money is owed on a loan relating to the vehicle. Make sure the finance is cleared and the encumbrance removed, prior to purchasing the vehicle.

The National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System (NEVDIS) is responsible for maintaining a database that registers every vehicle's VIN across the country.

The National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System is a national system that exchanges information about vehicles and driver licenses. Its primary purpose is to prevent fraud and theft by ensuring "one vehicle, one Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)" and "one person, one driver licence".

NEVDIS enables road authorities to interact across state borders and directly supports the transport and automotive industries. In addition to information supplied by road agencies, NEVDIS collects VIN data for compliance from vehicle wholesalers and stolen information from police. It also provides information to public and private sector organisations to facilitate provenance checking on vehicles, matching of biographic details on licenses, motor insurance underwriting and vehicle safety recalls.

A key task of NEVDIS is to decode and upload new VINs as vehicles are manufactured or imported into Australia so that the vehicle can be registered with the relevant State or Territory.

NEVDIS only records VINs for vehicles built on or after 1 January 1989.

If you go to register your vehicle and the registering authority states that the VIN has not been uploaded, there are three possible scenarios that may have occurred:

1. The VIN has not yet been loaded onto the database by NEVDIS.
2. The VIN listed on your application does not match the VIN on your vehicle. This could be an administrative error on behalf of the Department or a personal error on your application form.
3. The VIN was not structured correctly by the manufacturer in the first instance and cannot be decoded or uploaded.

The written-off vehicle register records the details of vehicles that are not more than 16 years old that have been classified as written-off or 'wrecked' or are dismantled for parts or scrap metal.

Most vehicles stolen by professional thieves have a high value and are never recovered as they are either stripped for parts and the bodies dumped or they are 're-birthed' under new identities. The written-off vehicle register minimises the opportunities for illegal use of a vehicle's identifiers in the re-birthing of stolen vehicles.

Those vehicles which have been in an accident, or suffered some form of impact, water, fire or malicious damage. Written-off vehicles are classified as either a statutory (unable to be re-registered) or repairable write-off (able to be re-registered in some States once repaired and passes written-off vehicle and safety certificate inspections).

Written off vehicles can be of the following types:

  • Dismantled - A statutory write-off that is stripped of interior and exterior body parts, panels and components
  • Fire damage - Sections or all of the vehicle has been burnt by fire
  • Hail damage - Sections or all of the vehicle has been damaged by hail
  • Impact damage - Damage caused, due to violent contact with another object
  • Malicious damage - Wilful damage or destruction of a vehicle
  • Refer jurisdiction - Contact the registration authority displayed in the 'state of registration'
  • Unrecovered theft - A stolen vehicle that has not been recovered. Contact the relevant registration authority
  • Water damage - Immersed in fresh or salt water

Organisations that work with written-off vehicles are required to notify government department's when a vehicle is written-off or dismantled for parts or scrap metal.

The majority of information supplied to the written-off vehicle register will come from insurance companies. If you fall in to one of the categories below you will need to become a written-off vehicle notifier:

  • insurance companies
  • auction houses that take possession of a written-off vehicle not currently recorded on the register
  • motor dealers that take possession of a written-off vehicle not currently recorded on the register
  • auto-part dismantlers taking possession of a written-off vehicle or dismantling a vehicle not currently recorded on the register
  • loss assessors, assessing a vehicle for someone other than an insurer.

A search of the state-based Register of Encumbered Vehicles, or the Vehicle Security registers (VSR), was known as a REVs check.

All records stored on state-based registers have been transferred to the PPSR, which cover the whole of Australia, and all state based registers are now closed.

These include:

  • New South Wales (NSW) Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS)
  • New South Wales (NSW) Security Interest in Goods Register (SIGR)
  • Queensland (QLD) Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS)
  • Vic Roads Vehicle Securities Register (VSR)
  • South Australia Vehicle Securities Register (VSR)
  • Western Australia REVS and BOS
  • Tasmanian Motor Vehicle Securities Register

Used car buying scams leave potential buyers exposed. Only 1 in 3 used car buyers take the necessary step to ensure that a car they are interested in buying is free from encumbrance (outstanding loan, or finance owing).

Buying a car is can be a complicated process, one that may require you to secure finance, check comparable cars, negotiate for a better deal and hope that what you are buying doesn't turn out to be a lemon.

Whilst the internet provides a quicker way to navigate car selection it unfortunately contains a vast huge of amount of misinformation.

It is important as the buyer that you take the necessary steps to verify and validate information about a car, motorcycle, boat, even trailers yourself. Do not rely on information provided by sellers. It may be accurate, however it may not.

You can check the PPSR - previously REVS (Register of Encumbered Vehicles) - on this website to determine if the vehicle is encumbered. In addition to doing a REVS check, we also recommend buying a history report that includes information about whether the car has been written-off, stolen, flood damaged or whether the odometer has been rolled back.

Doing a REVS check is the simplest way to prevent repossession by a financier if someone else still owes money on the vehicle. If the vehicle is encumbered, you should not purchase it until you are satisfied with the arrangements made by the current owner to repay the debt.

You need to be sure that the registration, engine and Vehicle Identification (VIN/Chassis) numbers on the registration papers are identical to those on the vehicle.

For a small investment, you are able to put to bed most of the unknown factors not disclosed by a seller. You can then focus of Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming, HUD, dual exhaust and the negotiated price.

myPPSR - Buying a used vehicle?

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