Last updated March 10, 2023
There are several circumstances in which you might need to find a vehicle’s registration number from the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
Perhaps you have bought or inherited a car that you would like to register with the DVLA, but cannot determine its registration number, as the number plates have been lost, damaged, or obscured.
If the previous owner retained a private number plate after the sale, the vehicle will then revert to its original registration number. However, if they have not re-attached these old plates, you may not know the vehicle’s original registration.
This leaves you in a tricky situation, as it is not possible to register or tax a vehicle without providing the registration. However, you might be able to find your vehicle’s missing registration number using the 17-digit VIN code.
Unfortunately, the various free car check services available online cannot tell you a vehicle’s registration number from the VIN.
In this guide, we’ll cover the methods at your disposal for identifying an unknown registration number by VIN code.
We’ll also clarify how to find your VIN number, the circumstances in which a vehicle’s VIN number may change – and the signs that indicate a VIN number may have been ‘cloned’ from another vehicle.
There is currently no official channel for requesting a registration number using a VIN through the DVLA.
Some members of online automotive forums claim to have obtained their vehicle’s registration number from the DVLA after disclosing their VIN on a V62 form. However, others using this approach reported that their request was declined.
DVLA staff can retrieve the registration of any UK vehicle by VIN number, providing it is logged in their database. However, it is entirely at their discretion whether they choose to provide you with this information.
The DVLA may also provide you with the contact details of a relevant car club that holds your vehicle’s registration number.
A ‘full vehicle check’ service such as HPI may be able to determine a vehicle’s registration number from the VIN. However, with HPI, only trade customers can request a vehicle’s registration number by VIN.
If you do not have a trade account yourself, you can try asking a motor trader to perform a HPI check on your behalf. They will likely ask you to cover the cost of the search if they agree to your request.
If you can contact the vehicle’s previous owner, they may be able to provide you with the missing reg number.
If the vehicle was previously owned by a family member and they cannot tell you the reg number themselves, it may be possible to obtain old photographs of the car that would tell you its original registration.
Your vehicle’s VIN number should be stamped into the chassis – usually in the engine bay, or beneath the plastic trim surrounding the driver or passenger door opening. The VIN number is also visible at the bottom of the windscreen on most UK car models.
You should also be able to find your vehicle’s VIN number in the ‘Vehicle Details’ section of its V5C logbook.
Certain vehicles, such as kit cars or vehicles that have been radically altered may change VIN numbers.
However, this is relatively rare – and under normal circumstances, it is not possible to change VIN numbers. For instance, a car that was severely damaged in an accident will retain its original VIN number – and this number will not be re-purposed for another vehicle, even if the damage was irreparable.
Every vehicle in the world has a unique VIN or chassis number and the system is stringently regulated. Therefore, if a car catches your eye, but you suspect that the VIN has been cloned from another vehicle, don’t buy it.
No free or premium vehicle check will show a vehicle’s full VIN number, as this would violate the DVLA’s data disclosure laws. However, some vehicle checks will reveal part of the VIN number. This can be useful if you wish to verify whether a claimed VIN number is genuine.
There are several steps you can take to determine whether a vehicle’s purported VIN number is genuine. First, run a vehicle check through an online service to obtain the last five digits of the VIN.
Next, note down the VIN code as it appears at each location throughout the vehicle, ensuring it is consistent. Finally, compare it to the partial VIN obtained through the vehicle check. Any discrepancies here could indicate VIN cloning has taken place.
If you’ve checked in all the usual places and still cannot locate the VIN number on your vehicle, it is likely that it has been removed.
This may indicate that the vehicle has been significantly modified – and the VIN was removed or obscured during the process. However, it is also possible that the vehicle was stolen and the person responsible deliberately removed the VIN to obscure its history.
If you are viewing a car and notice that the VIN is missing, you should ask the seller for an explanation and, if you are not satisfied with their answer, you should abandon the sale.
No, the engine number and VIN are two separate codes. The VIN contains identifying information about the vehicle such as the make, model and year of manufacture, whereas the engine number is a separate unique number that identifies the engine block.
No, you cannot apply for a V5C if you only have your vehicle’s VIN number. You’ll also need the reg number.