Vehicle identification number: How to find and decode the VIN
A VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is like a social security number, serial number, or UPC code for a car. It is given to a car by the manufacturer and no two VINs are alike. A VIN is a unique 17-character string that identifies various characteristics of an automobile including:
- Where the car was built
- Brand, engine size, trim and type
- Vehicle security code (meaning the vehicle has been verified by the manufacturer)
- The assembly plant where the car is put together
- Vehicle serial number
VIN numbers can also tell you things like the type air bag present on the vehicle, the type of restraint system it has (seat belt) and the year of the vehicle. Basically, VIN numbers provide a quick way to decipher the details of a car.
These numbers have been required on vehicles since 1954, but were standardized starting in 1981 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)NHTSA) began requiring all vehicles to have the specific 17-character VIN we see today.
What does VIN mean?
The VIN has a preset pattern that tells you a lot about the vehicle you’re looking at.
The first three numbers make up what is known as the world manufacturer identifier or WMI.
- The first number or letter identifies the country of origin. For example, cars made in the US take the number firstwhile cars made in Germany have the letter W. You can find a list of codes on Wikipedia.
- The second number or letter is part of the code that identifies the manufacturer. Sometimes this is the first letter of the company name, but not always. The third letter will help narrow down the manufacturer.
- The third slot helps to identify the vehicle type or production part. When reading the VIN, you consider this third point to narrow down the details of the vehicle.
The next six numbers help further identify the vehicle:
- Numbers four through eight tell you about the car’s make, body type, powertrain, engine, and restraints.
- The number in the ninth position is called the “check digit”, which is a digit generated by a particular formula generated by United States Department of Transportation. This number helps to determine if the VIN is authentic.
The last seven digits are the vehicle’s serial number.
- The letter or number in the 10th position will tell you the model year with the letters B through Y indicating the years 1981 to 2000. However, they do not use the letters I, O, Q, U. or Z. From 2001 to 2009, numbers one through nine were used, and the alphabet started again in 2010. So a car from 2022 would take the letter N in the No. ten to determine that year.
- The letter or number in the 11th position is the code associated with the manufacturing plant where the vehicle was built.
- The following six digits are the unique serial number the vehicle receives from the manufacturer when the vehicle is in motion.
This unique VIN is then linked to a database of information about a car’s ownership history, accident and ownership information and can tell you a lot about these types of events. that the vehicle went through.
Where is the VIN on your car?
VIN numbers are commonly found in many places around vehicles. Including:
- Mounted on a metal plate mounted on the dashboard near the windshield
- Stamp on the driver’s side door shirt
- The inside of the engine compartment is stamped on the firewall
- On the engine itself
- On the driver’s side door just below the latch
- On the chassis of the car
You can also find the VIN on any title paperwork like title, registration and Insurance money Paperwork.
Read more: What is title or pink slip?
How to decode VIN
Decoding a VIN is relatively easy in today’s modern world. Do a quick search for VIN decoders online and you’ll find plenty of options. Plug in the VIN you want to know more about, and you’ll get a wealth of information including everything from the location of the airbag to the type of fuel it’s designed to run on.
It’s best to use a VIN decoder as a starting point to learn about a car, as well as its ownership and accident history. The VIN decoder and vehicle history report should be combined with an inspection from a certified mechanic to ensure that you are in good working order. old car. Never rely solely on vehicle history reports to determine if you should buy a particular used vehicle. There may be errors and omissions that can cause problems. Continue reading below to learn more.
Use VIN to pull Vehicle History Report
You should review the vehicle history report before purchasing any used vehicle. Typically, those cost and range from $40 for a single report to $100 for multiple reports. The most famous reports come from CarFax but they are also the most expensive. Other companies like AutoCheck (owned by Experian) also provide vehicle history reports based on the vehicle’s VIN.
Read more: 7 questions you should ask before buying a car
You should also consider running a VIN through National motor vehicle ownership information system. The system is operated by the Federal Department of Justice. By law, all salvage yards, insurance providers, scrap yards and auto recyclers must report to the agency on a regular basis. For $10, you can get a basic report showing if the car has any branding on it (junk, rescue, flood, etc.). A trademark license is issued when a car is involved in a serious accident or is subject to some other major damage.
Read more: Things to avoid when buying a used car
It’s important to understand what a VIN does and what it can tell you so you can make an informed decision when buying a car. You may find it best to start with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and work from there to learn as much as you can about the vehicle before dropping your hard earned money.