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Vehicle Identification Numbers

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual vehicles.

VIN characteristics

  • VINs conform to two international standards:
    • International Standards Organisation (currently ISO 3779 2009); and
    • US Standard FMVSS 115;
  • Every character in every position has a meaning relating to the make, model, year of manufacture and vehicle details;
  • A VIN is always 17 characters long;
  • A VIN can only be made up of the following characters: 0–9, A–Z (uppercase) excluding letters I, O and Q: This prevents confusion with visually similar numerals;
  • The first three characters make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). Every high volume manufacturer in the world is assigned its own WMI;
  • If the third character of the WMI is a 9, then this indicates a low volume manufacturer with positions 12–14 in the VIN indicating the low volume ID.
  • VINs can be decoded to identify this information so that the vehicle can be registered.


The National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System (NEVDIS) is responsible for maintaining a database that registers every vehicle's VIN across the country. A key task of NEVDIS is to decode and upload new VINs as vehicles are manufactured or imported into Australia so that the vehicle can be registered with the relevant State or Territory.

When you import a vehicle, the VIN that is recorded on your Vehicle Import Approval is sent to the NEVDIS Administration Unit (NAU) so that they can validate, decode and upload it for registration purposes.

It should be noted that NEVDIS only records VINs for vehicles built on or after 1 January 1989.

Importing vehicles without a 17 character VIN

If you are importing a vehicle that you intend to register for on–road use that was manufactured after 1 January 1989, it will need a 17 character VIN so that the vehicle can be registered.

Unfortunately, some imported vehicles are without a 17 character VIN. The most common example of this relates to Japanese vehicles which use the chassis number as the identifying serial number. The chassis number is always fewer than 17 characters. Another example includes Chinese trailer manufacturers who cannot provide a VIN due to local jurisdictional issues.

In such cases a ‘surrogate’ VIN will need to be created and issued for that particular vehicle so that it can be registered. This involves expanding the characters in the chassis number and adding a special WMI to the beginning.

If you are importing fewer than 500 vehicles or trailers per year (including the average person importing their personal vehicle on a one–off basis) that were manufactured on or after 1 January 1989 and your vehicle/s and/or trailer/s do not have a 17 character VIN, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (the Department) will issue a VIN or VINs using the Department's specific WMI, ‘6U9’. NEVDIS will recognise that these are Commonwealth–issued VINs and will load them onto the database for registration purposes.

If you are importing over 500 vehicles or trailers per year you will need to arrange for your own WMI to be issued through NEVDIS.

Once a WMI has been issued, the NAU can assist in setting up a VIN decoding structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I have taken my vehicle to be registered but the registering authority has declared that the VIN has not been loaded onto the system:

Each week, an automated email is sent by the Department to the NAU which lists every VIN that has been issued with a Vehicle Import Approval over the last 7 days. The NAU then validates and (if valid) decodes these VINs in order to upload them onto the national database.

If you go to register your vehicle and the registering authority states that the VIN has not been uploaded, there are three possible scenarios that may have occurred:

  1. The VIN has not yet been loaded onto the database by NEVDIS.
  2. The VIN listed on your application does not match the VIN on your vehicle. This could be an administrative error on behalf of the Department or a personal error on your application form.
  3. The VIN was not structured correctly by the manufacturer in the first instance and cannot be decoded or uploaded.

What do I do next?

  1. In the first instance, contact Vehicle Imports via email or by phone to identify the issue. Vehicle Imports will ask that you double check that the VIN listed on your vehicle import approval matches the VIN on your vehicle.
    If the VIN matches, Vehicle Imports will contact NEVDIS on your behalf to ascertain why the VIN has not been uploaded.
    In rare cases where there is a backlog of VINs to upload, the upload will generally be given priority.
  2. If you double check the VIN on your Vehicle Import Approval and realise an error, you will need to send back the original Vehicle Import Approval document to the Department, highlight the error and request that the approval be amended.
    This process can take up to 5 business days to rectify. Should you wish to shorten this process, you may wish to include an express post envelope with your document so that the Department can use the express post system to mail the amended document back to you.
  3. If the NAU states that the VIN cannot be decoded and you have double checked that the VIN on the vehicle matches the VIN on your approval, it generally means that the VIN was not structured correctly by the manufacturer. In this instance you will need to contact the NAU in order to identify the exact issue.
    The NAU will often advise you to contact the manufacturer to clarify that the VIN was issued correctly in accordance with the proper structure.

NEVDIS/NAU Contact Details

Phone: (02) 82653350
Address: NEVDIS Administration Unit,
Level 9 287 Elizabeth St
Website: AustRoads NEVDIS