Decoding Your Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN)
When buying or selling a used vehicle, why stop at examining how the vehicle looks and runs? Checking a vehicle’s history is equally important to make an informed decision. You can find out various details of a vehicle using its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Read on to find detailed information of VIN and how it is necessary to make the right decision when buying a pre-owned vehicle.
What is a VIN?
A Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-character unique serial number assigned by auto manufacturers, which can be used to track and identify motor vehicles. The VIN does not contain the letters I , O (o), and Q (q) (to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0). If the VIN is less than 17 digits, then there’s a possibility that the vehicle was manufactured before 1981.
VIN is widely used by the police and other investigating personnel to distinguish between vehicles of same make, model, and color, for law enforcement and bureaucratic purposes. VIN is also useful for those looking to buy a pre-owned vehicle, as it helps provide a detailed vehicle history.
Where is the VIN Located?
A VIN is usually located somewhere on the body of the vehicle, and you can easily find it if you know where to look.
List of places where you can find the VIN in a car:
- Front of the engine
- Front of the car frame, near the container that holds windshield washer fluid
- Rear wheel well, directly above the tire
- Inside the driver-side door jamb, underneath where the side-view mirror would be located if the door was shut
- Driver-side doorpost, near the spot where the door latches, not too far from the seatbelt return
- Underneath the spare tire
List of places where you can find the VIN on a motorcycle:
- On the steering neck
- On the motor near the bottom of the cylinders
You can also find the VIN on any documentation you have for the vehicle such as:
- Vehicle title
- Registration card
- Insurance documents
- Owner's manual
- Body shop repair records
- Police reports
- Vehicle history report or VIN check
What Does a VIN Tell You?
Once you decode a VIN, it gives you the following details:
- Model year, manufacturing plant, and production number
- Current state/last state to title the vehicle
- Body style, type of engine and transmission, or even safety features such as airbags
- Odometer reading
- Track recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts and insurance coverage
- Brand history for vehicle (Clean, Salvage, Junk, etc.)
- Salvage history
- Total Loss history
- Additional photos if sold through select vehicle auction yards
Items like leather, sunroofs, and stereos are not detailed by the VIN on about 99% of all vehicles.
Why Do You Need a VIN Check?
Anyone buying a used vehicle might worry about getting ripped off by the seller. VIN plays a key role in decision-making. Decoding a VIN number of a used vehicle can let people know:
- Number of owners of the vehicle over time
- If the vehicle has been used for commercial purposes
- If the vehicle is a stolen commodity
- If the vehicle has been in a major accident
- An approximate mileage
- General service records
- What’s the rough worth of the vehicle
How to Decode a VIN?
Though it is easy to locate the VIN, decoding it might not be any easy task. The 17-digits of the VIN are divided into segments and each represent some relevant information about the vehicle. Given the length of the VIN, manually decoding your Vehicle Identification Number is a tedious task, which may result in faulty information. You can use simply enter your VIN on ClearVin’s free online decoder, and get instant and accurate report of your vehicle’s history. Our reports include title and brand history, insurance claim information, recall events, odometer accuracy and other relevant information about a vehicle’s history.