Think of a Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, as your used car’s fingerprints. No two VIN’s are the same and each VIN serves as a unique identifier for your specific car. It may look like just a jumble of letters and numbers, but each 17-character long VIN is assigned by the automaker and reveals an array of details about the car, including its model year, country of origin, and where it was assembled. It can also be used to track registration information, recalls, thefts, and insurance information. A quick note — if your used car is from before 1981, your VIN may be shorter than 17 characters.
Where can I find my VIN?
VIN’s are traditionally found on the dashboard on the driver’s side. If you aren’t near your car and need the VIN, it can also be found on a copy of your car’s registration, auto insurance policy, and receipts of service.
How do I read my VIN?
- Characters 1-3 identify the car manufacturer
- Characters 4-8 indicate the vehicle model, body style, and engine type
- Character 9 is a security code that confirms the VIN by an authorized manufacturer
- Character 10 indicates the car’s model year
- Character 11 reveals which plant assembled your car
- Characters 12-17 is your car’s serial number
When would I need to know my VIN?
There are a few situations in which you would need to know your VIN. It may be necessary if/when:
- Registering your vehicle in a new state
- Your car is stolen
- Checking to see a vehicle’s prior accidents and damages
- Buying parts that need to fit your used vehicle’s specifications
- Completing a bill of sale after selling your car
- You want to know if your used car has any outstanding recalls. You can enter the VIN into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recall tool to check for any recalls within the last 15 years
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