SAIA launches free access insurance vehicle salvage database

The SA Insurance Association (Saia) is set to launch a vehicle salvage database (VSD) by the end of this month, which will provide free access for the public to information about vehicles that were previously written off by insurance companies.

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The National Automobile Dealers' Association (NADA) previously indicated its strong support for the publication of a VSD to help prevent consumers from unknowingly buying written-off vehicles at inflated prices.

Saia says the launch of what it calls its new Vehicle Identification Number (VIN-Lookup) will be done in phases, with the first phase containing the salvage records of:

• Re-built (Code 3) vehicles.

• Spare Parts only (Code 3A) vehicles.

• Scrap Permanently Demolished (Code 4) vehicles.

It says the second phase will contain used (written-off Code 2) vehicles, which will most likely be available in December 2023.

Sambra has been urging Saia for some time to give consumers access to information on its SVD, with Saia initially indicating that the VSD would be launched by the first quarter of 2023.

An accident-damaged vehicle is “written-off” by an insurer if the vehicle is deemed “uneconomical to repair”, which means the costs to restore the vehicle to its original, safe condition, exceeds a certain percentage of the value of the vehicle.

However, once a vehicle is written off, it should be re-coded on the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) as a Code 3 vehicle, which will inform any future or prospective buyers of the extensively damaged or salvaged vehicle that would have been expensive to repair.

Insurance companies typically dispose of these vehicles at auctions, where they are then bought and repaired, often to sub-standard and unsafe specifications or without expensive safety items such as airbags, by unscrupulous repairers, and subsequently sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Saia says used (written-off) Code 2 vehicles are vehicles where the current owner is the second or later owner of the vehicle after the vehicle became liable for licensing, or the vehicle was stolen or deregistered by default owing to a failure to license the vehicle, or if the vehicle was at any stage exempt from registration.

It says these vehicles have one or more of the following characteristics:

• They are uneconomical to repair, for example where the damage exceeds a certain percentage of the value of the motor vehicle, which could differ from insurer to insurer in accordance with their internal procedures.

• They have structural damage that can be repaired according to manufacturer’s specification.

• They can be repaired to a safe and roadworthy state and can be declared a Code 2 again.

Saia says the VIN-Lookup is a free public-facing platform to assist consumers in making their used vehicle buying decisions.

It says the portal is only a small contribution to try to help solve the problem of unsafely repaired cars bought from salvage houses and emphasised it is not the only tool the public must use to make their buying decisions.

“Over and above this portal, the consumer must refer purchases of used vehicles or damaged vehicles to experienced and trusted expert service providers, such as roadworthy test facilities, which will assist them during their buying journey.

“Physical inspection of a salvage vehicle remains the best option,” it adds.

Saia says the launch of the VIN-Lookup platform was delayed because of critical consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the Department of Transport and the SA Police Services (SAPS), that took longer than expected.

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