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South African Insurance Association (SAIA) launches VIN-Lookup web site for written-off vehicles

01 September 2023 South African Insurance Association (SAIA)

The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) has launched a web-based facility for consumers to check on the status of a vehicle as reflected in a very small database within the industry’s Vehicle Salvage Database (VSD).

Named VIN-Lookup, access is free to consumers. The web address is www.vinlookupsa.co.za

Consumers need to complete three fields on the screen: name and second name, identity number and vehicle identification number (VIN). 

If the VIN is found on the database, the user will see a short narrative about the vehicle. For example, text that looks similar to the following:

“SJNXXXX15Z6299693

The vehicle was deregistered as DEMOLISHED because it had irreparable structural damage that could not be repaired to a safe and roadworthy state AND no major components could be used for vehicle spare parts. 

“In terms of Regulation 13A read with Regulation 1 and 55 of The National Road Traffic Act, 1996, the vehicle shall not be registered and its parts shall not be used to build or repair any motor vehicle.” 

Says Zakes Sondiyazi, SAIA Manager: Insurance Risks: “The launch of VIN-Lookup is a contribution of the non-life insurers to helping address the problem of purchasing unsafe repaired cars from vehicle salvage houses. 

“SAIA urges consumers to use VIN-Lookup as just part of thorough research when buying a used car rather than treat it as a single solution to understanding the history of a vehicle.” 

Sondiyazi says that beyond use of VIN-Lookup, the consumer should refer buyers of used or damaged vehicles to expert service providers such as roadworthy test facilities. Physical inspection of a salvage vehicle by a trained professional remains the best option, he says. 

The implementation of VIN-Lookup is being done in phases. The first phase includes the following vehicle salvage records:

  • Rebuilt (Code 3).
  • Spare parts only (Code 3A); and
  • Scrap – Permanently demolished (Code 4).  

The vehicle salvage database from which information is drawn for VIN-Lookup contains records that show how insurance companies have designated previously insured vehicles. The database does not contain a comprehensive record of all vehicles and their status. Full records of all vehicles, insured or not, are held on the NaTIS system that falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), an agency of the Department of Transport. 

The information provided through VIN-Lookup is considered complete at the time it was received, reflecting the status of the vehicle at the time it was in the possession of the information owner, the insurance company. The status returned is in no way a reflection of the quality of repair nor roadworthiness of the vehicle. 

“We always recommend that you have any vehicle checked by a qualified third party to ensure it is roadworthy and repaired to an acceptable standard,” says Sondiyazi. 

SAIA further advises users of VIN-Lookup to note that use of the information is at their own risk with no liability on the owners of the information or the administrator of the VSD shared information. 

The second phase of VIN-Lookup will consider inclusion of Used (Written-off Code 2) vehicles and is scheduled to be available by the end of 2023 at best. 

SAIA consulted widely with all relevant industry stakeholders in developing the VIN-Lookup. This included the Department of Transport as custodians of the National Road Traffic Act and which provides guidelines to determine the life cycle status of a motor vehicle as implemented on the NaTIS system. The South African Police Service (SAPS) was among other stakeholders consulted. 

Measures taken by SAIA to ensure that the VIN-Lookup is robust, included:

  • Ensuring stability of the platform and database;
  • Auditing and verifying the accuracy of the information that will be provided and defining how it will be uploaded going forward;
  • Securing an agreement among SAIA member companies in respect of how much historical data can be carried;
  • Developing a process for identifying possible errors and omissions, and revising the database accordingly; and
  • Clarifying the legal status of information to be provided and the “own risk” disclaimer.


In conclusion, SAIA Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Viviene Pearson, says: “Of the 14 million registered vehicles in South Africa, less than a third is insured (i.e., less than 5 million). Therefore, the industry's Vehicle Salvage Database will likely have less than 3% of vehicles that are written off, and most of these are vehicles that can either be rebuilt, or can only be used for spare parts, or should be demolished. This means that access to this small database against the population of registered vehicles in South Africa is not the silver bullet as mentioned in some reports written on this topic”.

SAIA Code of Motor Salvage can be found here...

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