Checking a Used Car’s Write-Off History in South Africa

Buying a used car can be exciting, but you also want to avoid a vehicle with a hidden past. The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) offers a helpful tool called VIN-Lookup to check if a car has been written off before.

What is VIN-Lookup?

VIN-Lookup is a free website that allows you to see a brief history of a car using its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This can help you avoid purchasing a car that was previously declared a write-off due to severe damage.

How Does VIN-Lookup Work?

  1. Visit the VIN-Lookup website: Go to
  2. Enter Details: Input your name, ID number, and the vehicle’s VIN in the designated boxes.
  3. Check Salvage Status: The website will check the industry’s Vehicle Salvage Database (VSD) and provide information about the car’s salvage status.

What Information Does VIN-Lookup Provide?

VIN-Lookup offers information on three statuses:

  • Code 3 (Rebuilt): The car was previously damaged but has been repaired.
  • Code 3A (Spare Parts Only): The car is not drivable and can only be used for spare parts.
  • Code 4 (Scrap – Permanently Demolished): The car is considered too damaged to be repaired or used for parts.

Important Considerations:

  • VIN-Lookup is still under development. In a future update (around late 2023), it will also include information on Code 2 vehicles, which are written-off cars.
  • The VSD primarily contains data from insured vehicles. As less than a third of South African vehicles have insurance, the database might not have information on all written-off cars.
  • VIN-Lookup is not a complete vehicle history report. For a more comprehensive picture, consider contacting the Department of Transport’s NaTIS system.

Using VIN-Lookup alongside other checks can help you make informed decisions when buying a used car in South Africa.

scroll to top