Wednesday, September 17, 2008


ICBC has launched a free online service to allow customers to look up a vehicle’s status, helping them to make informed buying decisions when purchasing used vehicles. All vehicles in North America are assigned a status to describe the general state of the vehicle and whether it qualifies to be on the road.

The vehicle status search launched today on and works by entering the vehicle model year and vehicle identification number (VIN) – a series of letters and numbers assigned by the vehicle manufacturer. In most cases, a VIN is 17 characters long and can be found on a vehicle’s dashboard identification plate, on the doorpost and on the engine firewall.

After entering the VIN and vehicle model year online, customers are provided with the current status of the vehicle, which will be one of the following four designations:

  • Salvage: This status is given to a vehicle that has been written off as a result of a crash, but has the potential to be repaired or reconstructed. The vehicle must be repaired and inspected before it can be licensed or reinsured.
  • Rebuilt: This status is assigned to “salvage” vehicles after they have been repaired and have passed inspection. It is also used for homemade and specialty vehicles to indicate that they have been inspected and are structurally sound.
  • Altered: This status is given to a vehicle that has been significantly modified after its manufacture. The status is added when the vehicle has passed inspection.
  • Normal: If a vehicle does not have a status of rebuilt, salvage or altered, it is considered to have a normal status. "Normal" is simply a term used for the purposes of vehicle registration. A normal status does not mean the vehicle has never been damaged or is in good mechanical condition.

The status search provides the current status listed in the B.C. vehicle registry. Changes to a vehicle’s status are reported by insurance companies, tow operators, and automobile recyclers to the Registrar of Motor Vehicle, which in BC is ICBC. ICBC provides vehicle licensing and vehicle registration services, including maintaining the vehicle registry, on behalf of the provincial government.

A vehicle’s status is only one part of its overall history and may change overtime. The status of a vehicle does not fully describe its mechanical condition or damage history. Additional tips for customers buying a used car are available on Customers can also get detailed information on a vehicle’s registration, crash and lien history through the existing Vehicle Claims History report and CarProof Verified BC report. For more information about these reports, which are available online for a fee, please visit

“We encourage anyone thinking of buying a used vehicle to use the tools ICBC makes available to help them – a little research can go a long way,” said Mark Francis, manager of Provincial Vehicle Registration and Licensing. “There are a number of precautions people can take to protect themselves in making an informed buying decision, giving them the trust and confidence that their purchase is a good one.”

The online vehicle status search was one of the commitments made by ICBC following the investigation into its Burnaby-based research and training facility.


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