Consumer Alert: Be sure your trailer has a legal VIN | Automotive

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Consumer Alert: Be sure your trailer has a legal VIN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every trailer on the road, and there are many, must have a vehicle identification number, like your car would have. Otherwise, under Florida, law it's considered contraband and it will be confiscated.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is reporting a rash of trailer thefts like what happened to Willis Sly. His utility trailer was stolen on Memorial Day.

"They cut all the locks on the trailer and away it went," said Sly.

He purchased a new trailer, costing him about $2,000.

"The police say they recover some. I'm buying another one so I don't know," said Sly.

The police effort to cut down on trailer thefts and recover the stolen ones has been an eye-opening experience for Dan Mechelke

"I had no idea, I had no idea in regards to that trailer, none at all, none at all," said Mechelke.

Mechelke owns First Coast Divers and uses two trailers to haul gear on diving trips. One of his trailers was confiscated by police.

"It didn't have a proper VIN, vehicle identification number, on it," said Mechelke, "Under Florida law, it is considered contraband trailer subject to seizure, which they did."

Mechelke purchased the utility trailer five years ago and has a bill of sale, but there was no proper vehicle ID number on the trailer.

"I'm not faulting those folks. They're doing their jobs, it is the Florida statute," he said.

Mechelke is telling everyone he knows about Florida Statute 319.33.

"If you do not have a proper VIN, that trailer can be confiscated and sold without you getting it back," he said, "That's the law."

Mark Fleischer builds and sells utility trailers. Whether you're buying from his business, All Pro Trailers, or someone on Craigslist, he said you have to use the same caution.

"Make certain you are buying something that has been registered and titled before," said Fleischer.

Fleischer goes one step further with his trailers: He welds an ID number onto the frame.

Mechelke is now working with the State's Attorney's Office to recover his confiscated trailer.


-Verify the VIN (vehicle identification number) on your trailer through the seller or manufacturer

-Purchase a wheel lock to secure the trailer while parked, or remove one of the wheels

-To further minimize theft, park the trailer with the tongue in, away from the street

-Secure the trailer to a fixed structure using a chain

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