Want to know if a car was written off? Insurance body makes it easier with new website

File picture: Newspress.

File picture: Newspress.

Published Sep 1, 2023


There are a number of fears that you might face when buying a used car. Was it stolen? Was it written off and then rebuilt?

Until now finding out the latter was not the easiest of tasks, but now the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) has added an extra layer of protection for potential buyers with a new website database.

Granted, it does not contain a comprehensive list of all the vehicles in South Africa, but rather a smaller selection of vehicles that were insured via its members.

Thus the association stresses that this should not be seen as a definitive way to determine whether a car was written off, but rather as an extra step in the homework that you do to ensure you’re making a sound purchase.

The portal is free to use by members of the public, who can access it via www.vinlookupsa.co.za. From here users will need to add their name, ID number and the relevant vehicle identification number (VIN).

The SAIA’s VIN-Lookup system is being implemented in phases, with Code 3 (rebuilt), Code 3A (spare parts only) and Code 4 (permanently demolished) cars forming part of the initial phase.

The second phase of the project will see Code 2 (used, written off) vehicles being added to the database, and this is likely to happen by the end of 2023.

SAIA stresses that users of the VIN-Lookup website should use the service at their own risk, and that the association will not accept any liability for decisions made on the basis of the information or lack thereof.

“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,” said SAIA Manager Zakes Sondiyazi.

“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 added that the best way to seek peace of mind when making a purchase is to have a physical inspection conducted by a professional.

SAIA CEO Ms Viviene Pearson stressed that less than a third of the vehicles on South Africa’s roads are insured.

“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 (VSD) 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”.

Buyers seeking more information on the history of a vehicle, including whether it’s been flagged by the police as potentially stolen, can also make use of apps such as firstcheck.co.za, for a fee.

IOL Motoring