Check that a used car hasn’t been written off


If you need your own transport but money is tight, a used car is usually the most affordable option. But before you buy a second-hand car, you should make sure that it hasn’t been written off by an insurance company. When a vehicle has been in an accident and it will cost more to fix than to replace, insurers will write it off, which means that it must not be repaired and put back on the road.

Most of these write-offs are so damaged that they can’t be driven. Many are sold to scrapyards to be used for parts and recycling. But sometimes, unscrupulous people fix up written-off cars and sell them to shady dealers who sell them on to unsuspecting buyers. This puts drivers and passengers at risk, because the vehicle no longer meets the original manufacturer’s safety standards.


How to use VIN Lookup to check car history


If you want to know about the history of used cars, visit the newly launched VIN Lookup system, which contains a rich database of cars that insurers have declared write-offs.

Searching the database is easy and free. You simply fill in your name, identity number and the vehicle identification number (VIN) to learn about a car’s history. Each vehicle has a code that details its past. As a buyer, you need to pay attention to this history to avoid problems later.


The codes are as follows:

Code 1

This applies to a brand-new car that a dealer sells to its first owner.

Code 2

This is a used car with at least 1 previous owner that has been damaged in an accident but can still be fixed and put back on the road. This code also covers cars that are re-registered for licence plates after they have been stolen.


Reduce your risk even further by dealing with money experts who do good and their reputable partners


Code 3

This is a car that has been in an accident and is no longer safe to drive because of structural problems. If this kind of car is rebuilt, it no longer meets the standards of the manufacturer and must pass strict tests before returning to the road.


Code 3A

This is a car that has been in an accident and can’t be used as a vehicle anymore because it can’t be fixed. This kind of car can be used for its parts only. If you use the VIN number to search under this code, you might see a result like this:

The vehicle was deregistered as permanently unfit for use because it had IRREPARABLE structural damage and cannot be repaired to a safe and roadworthy state. The vehicle shall not be reregistered and was destined for the used spares market and had to be stripped for spares – not to be reregistered. The record of the vehicle will be blocked.


Code 4

This applies to cars that can’t be fixed or used for parts. Examples include stolen cars that have been found completely stripped down, or cars that have been in an accident and can’t be fixed. A search result under this code could say:

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 spares. 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.

The VIN Lookup system features Code 2, Code 3, Code 3A and Code 4.


Get peace of mind with Avo Auto and MFC


The VIN Lookup system can provide data only on cars that have previously been insured, so unfortunately it can never guarantee that a used car hasn’t previously been written off, if it was never insured in the first place. However, the system does reduce your risk of buying one. Reduce your risk even further by dealing with money experts who do good and their reputable partners. For peace of mind, search for the right used car to suit your needs on Avo Auto, where all our dealership partners are thoroughly vetted.


To finance your car, you can use MFC, a division of Nedbank, with a team of experts who are always ready to advise on affordability and other car-buying concerns. We also offer MyCover for basic and comprehensive vehicle insurance.