Having the wrong VIN number on your car title might not be something that would occur to you. When you buy a car, you assume that the VIN is correct. But having a wrong VIN number on your car's title is a problem that can occur. When that happens, you need to know how to handle it.

Here's what to consider so you can get the issue corrected and make sure everything about your vehicle matches and is accurate. It's best to catch the problem with an incorrect or non-matching VIN right away. However, there are also options to correct the problem after the fact. Sometimes, that can be much easier than others. You don't want to ignore issues like a non-matching VIN, so don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions. It can reduce a lot of future problems.

What Is a VIN?

A VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, is very much like your social security number. It's assigned to only one vehicle, and it gives people all the information about the make, model, year, and type of vehicle that goes with that number. It's completely specific to one car, truck, SUV, motorcycle or other method of transportation, and it never changes. Every vehicle that's made gets one of these numbers, and that number stays with the vehicle for the entirety of its life. You cannot take the VIN off the vehicle, alter it or block it with anything, either. Make sure it is always visible and in good shape, so you don't end up in trouble.

Why Does a VIN Matter?

Not everyone worries about a correct VIN, but the Department of Motor Vehicles does. The wrong VIN number on your car's title is a genuine issue. Make sure the VIN on the vehicle and the title match exactly. Even one number or letter different can cause problems because it will appear as though the title belongs to an unfamiliar vehicle. Naturally, that's something you'll want to avoid. Something as simple as a clerical error can cause this discrepancy, but there could also be bigger problems surrounding it. Finding out the cause behind the VIN difference is important, but getting it corrected is the goal.

There Are Two Types of Incorrect VIN Problems

The VIN on the vehicle matches the VIN on the car's dashboard. If that's not the case, though, there are two separate issues you have to consider. First, it could be something simple. Second, it could be someone trying to get away with something. Before purchasing any vehicle, make sure the VIN is the right one. Then you won't have to worry about it later. If you find that you've already purchased a vehicle that doesn't have a correct VIN attached to it, the Department of Motor Vehicles may help. First, let's look at the reasons the VIN could be problematic.

A clerical error is pretty common. While they catch most of these kinds of errors before they issue the title, some of them slip past and end up causing a problem for the vehicle's buyer. Clerical errors can include things like typing O instead of 0 or N instead of M. A VIN is a long line of numbers and letters, and making a mistake somewhere in that line happens. Double-checking everything on the paperwork when purchasing a vehicle can help reduce the issues that come along with VIN problems and clerical errors. Correcting an issue right away reduces future problems.

Less common is the possibility that someone is pulling a scam. New car dealerships will not do this, but what about when you buy a used car from a stranger? If you don't carefully check the car's VIN and make sure it matches the VIN on the title, you could end up with a vehicle that isn't actually what the title represents it to be. Sometimes this is a stolen car, and that's why the VIN on the title doesn't match the VIN on the dashboard. It's also possible that there was an error made on the title in the past and the previous owner never corrected it. Finding that out before proceeding is vital to a secure transaction.

For New Cars, Talk to the Dealership

If you've just bought a brand new car and you discover the wrong VIN number on title, contacting the dealership is the right first step. They may re-do the paperwork and have a corrected title application sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles, fixing the problem quickly and easily.

By going back to the dealership where you bought the vehicle and working with them directly, you'll be much more likely to get things fixed. Don't just assume that there's a way around the issue, or that you can give places like your insurance company a VIN that isn't correct. You could also experience big problems with this issue when you try to sell the car at a later date, too.

Used Car VIN Issues Can Be Costly

If you've purchased a used car and then realized the VIN doesn't match, correcting the issue might be more difficult. Working with the person you bought the car from can get the issue corrected. That assumes that it's an honest mistake, of course. If the seller is trying to scam you and has a stolen car, they will not answer your phone calls or try to help you correct the title issue. If you've exhausted your efforts in that area, the Department of Motor Vehicles is the place to turn to. They can investigate the issue and see what they can do to help you.

They can report the vehicle and the seller if it's a stolen car, hoping they will catch the person. Will you get your money back, though? Probably not. In most cases, sellers scammed in this way don't have a lot of recourse. Buying a stolen car, even unintentionally, can mean that you're out the money you paid. If the car is legal and the seller is unwilling or unable to help you solve the problem, though, you may still get the issue corrected by working with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV can help track down where and when the original issue with the title occurred and how to get it fixed.

Buying Safely Can Reduce VIN Problems

The best way to reduce the risk of a wrong VIN number on the car's title is to make sure it's right from the very beginning. One way to do that is to purchase a vehicle safely and securely. If you're going to buy from a private seller, take a careful look at the VIN on the car and the title before making the purchase. Check out anything that seems suspicious. If the VIN on the car matches the VIN on the title, you're in a better position to have a safe and quality transaction. But if something doesn't match or you have concerns, it's important to sort out those kinds of things before you make a purchase. That will reduce your chances of experiencing problems with your vehicle's VIN and help you have more peace of mind.

Choose PrivateAuto for Your Next Car Transaction

When you choose PrivateAuto for your next vehicle purchase, you can make sure you're getting a quality vehicle that matches the VIN on the title. You can schedule a test drive, easily respond to buyers, and make the purchase through electronic signatures for safety and security. Sellers of vehicles can also make sure they handle their transaction securely and protect their personal information when they sell with PrivateAuto.