A year after I bought a new Chevy Tahoe, I found out the VIN number on the contract belongs to another similar car that the dealer sold. When it came time to renew the tags, I couldn’t because the VIN was wrong. Now the dealer wants me to sign a new contract. Can I just return the car?

This “wrong VIN number” topic appears in a recent column.

To those who know how to read it, the vehicle identification number contains letters and numbers describing your exact vehicle, starting with the country where it was built and the order in which it was built on the assembly line.

According to interviews with a couple of auto finance companies, getting the VIN wrong is a really rare mistake, but not unheard of. The situation you describe is the most likely scenario for a careless mistake: Two different vehicles delivered at the same time to the same dealership might have the same VIN number except for one digit.

On the face of it, there’s no harm in signing a new contract, assuming it’s identical to the one you already have, except for the VIN. You might even be able to hand-write the changes on the existing contract and initial the changes.

If the dealership expects you to sign a new contract with a higher payment, you should complain right away to the dealership’s owner, and to the lender that financed your purchase.

Getting the VIN wrong is going to be inconvenient, and not just on your registration. Banks, insurance companies and the police all use the VIN. If it’s wrong on your registration, it will be wrong on all those other documents, too. Your dealership has experts who are accustomed to dealing with all of these agencies. You should insist that they help you to straighten out your paperwork and to fix the mistake they created.

And no, after a year you can’t just return the car. Assuming everything else on the contract but the VIN is correct, and the deal is for the same amount of money, you should probably just accept the new contract.