What is VIN?

  • Dec 28th, 2020
  • 4 min read

VIN is the abbreviation for Vehicle Identification Number. Each manufactured car has a unique identification number. To put it in other words, VIN for cars is the same as the national identification number for every citizen.

Since 1981 there was no accepted standard for the VIN numbers in the automotive industry. Different manufacturers used different formats. However, in 1981 all sold road vehicles must have had a 17-symbol long VIN number with the absence of the letters O(o), I(i), and Q(q) to avoid confusion with numbers 0, 1, and 9.

There are exceptions in some markets of the world. For instance, cars made for the Japanese domestic market have different markings to identify unique cars. In Japan, frame numbers are being used to the present day. The major difference between the two is that frame numbers use 9 to 12 alphanumeric characters.

Why cars need VIN?

The purpose of the VIN number is to separate unique cars apart. It works similarly to personal health records where doctors can observe the history of each patient. Same story with cars here. 

With the vehicle identification number, state authorities can verify, whether the car was written off at some point, or not. VINs are also used to process vehicle recalls. Since all cars have unique identification it is also possible to check the history of each particular car. It is extremely important to do it before buying a used car.

The used cars’ market is full of secrets and sometimes vehicles might have irresponsible owners. Missed service schedules is one thing, but some sellers don’t tell the truth about the history of accidents the car had.

A 17-character long VIN number can reveal what life the car has been through. That information may be valuable both for the buyer and the seller. If the car had good historical records, the selling price may be higher. However, cars with bad accidents history and clocked odometer should be avoided by any means.

Where to find VIN?

A VIN for a specific vehicle is placed in several areas. It is important to check all the VIN numbers on a particular car. All numbers of one car must be exactly the same.

Two easiest way to find a VIN number is to look at the documents (the title of the car) or either check the lower driver’s side corner for the windshield. 

The vehicle identification number is also embossed on the body of the car. It is usually covered with some body panels. A 17-character long alphanumeric string can be seen on the lower part of the B pillar when the driver’s door is opened.

VIN number may also be embossed in the engine bay, on the floor in the trunk area, or even on the engine block.

How to read VIN?

It is nearly impossible to understand the meaning of each VIN code without online decoding tools. But actually, a 17-character long VIN number has a meaning. In this alphanumeric string, there is a lot of different information.

For example, the first symbol reveals where the vehicle was originally built. While the last six digits provide just the serial number of a particular car. For manufacturers or official car dealers, these numbers can say a lot more.

Here is how to read the VIN number:

  • 1st character: where the car was assembled
  • 2nd and 3rd characters: manufacturer of the car
  • 4th to 8th characters: vehicle brand, engine type, and the engine number
  • 9th character: security number that validates the whole VIN
  • 10th character: model year of a specific car
  • 11th character: which assembly plant was the car manufactured in
  • 12th to 17th characters: serial number of a car

Full decoded information is available in each CheckCarDNA vehicle history report.

How to check VIN?

Checking the VIN is really easy and can be done in a few simple steps. Just fill in the VIN number to the CheckCarDNA search bar and hit GET INFO.

A few moments later you might access all the valuable information about the used car you are looking to buy or sell. Since a VIN number can reveal the history of a car it is a smart move to do that even before inspecting the car in a workshop.