A car’s VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number) is a unique ID that is federally required for all vehicles.
Most vehicles will have their VIN stamped and attached in a variety of places. Some of these are stamped directly into the frame or metal components, while others are affixed to a federally compliant VIN plate.
Sometimes, the VIN plate may be lost or damaged. In that case, you may need to get a new VIN plate, and sometimes a new VIN number.
Can you replace a VIN plate?
If you need to replace a VIN plate, there are some federal and state requirements you’ll need to follow.
Failing to go through the legally established process for replacing a VIN or VIN plate is a federal crime with heavy penalties.
So, yes, you can get a new VIN plate, but you MUST go through the official process established by your state Department of Motor Vehicles and the federal government.
Common situations in which as VIN or VIN plate may need to be replaced, include:
- When restoring a classic car or old vehicle.
- When a vehicle has been stolen and the VIN and VIN plates were grinded off or tampered with.
- When getting a VIN for a custom car.
- When getting a VIN for a homemade trailer.
- When restoring a previously junk or salvage vehicle.
How to Get a New VIN and VIN Tag
Replacing a VIN or a VIN plate requires some paperwork and inspections.
The requirements may vary slightly depending on the state you live in and where the vehicle is titled and registered.
First, you’ll need to gather all of the necessary documents to replace your VIN and VIN plate and to prove your ownership in the vehicle. This may include:
- Title/pink slip or MCO.
- Registration paperwork.
- Bill of Sales and receipts.
- A tracing of the VIN.
- A VIN replacement application.
Next, you’ll need to get a VIN inspection and verification completed at an authorized location.
In most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) controls where a VIN inspection must take place.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to take the vehicle to one of the following locations to complete a VIN inspection:
- Your local DMV office.
- A highway patrol location.
- A certified VIN verifier.
Once the vehicle passes the inspection, you will be issued a new VIN with instructions on how to receive a new VIN plate to attach to the vehicle.
In some cases, the VIN plate may be installed there or you may need to wait to receive a replacement.
Is it illegal to change your VIN Number or VIN plate?
Failing to replace or change your VIN or VIN plate without going through the proper channels is illegal.
It is considered a federal felony offense to remove, detroy, tamper with, or alter a vehicle’s VIN number.
Convictions for a VIN felony can come with:
- 5 years in prison.
- $250,000 in fines.
- State penalties.
- Having the vehicle confiscated.
Anyone who needs to change or remove a VIN is required to comply with federal and state laws.
Additionally, it is illegal to:
- Create a fake VIN or VIN plate.
- Request a fake VIN.
- Own a vehicle with a fake VIN.
- Attach or modify the VIN.
- Using a fake or modified VIN as proof of ownership in a vehicle.
Replacing or altering a VIN yourself is highly illegal. You must comply with the state and federal processes and requirements.
What does missing or altered VIN mean?
Missing or altered VIN is a damage code that may show up when you run a Vehicle History Report or VIN check.
This means that the car’s VIN number is either missing or has been altered – usually as a result of criminal activity or vehicle theft.
This report is free, and will quickly reveal whether a car, truck, or motorcycle has even been reported as stolen and/or stolen and recovered.