4 Quick Facts You Need to Know About VIN


VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number. It is an identifying code that is specific to each vehicle. You can think of VIN as a car’s fingerprint mainly because no two cars can ever have the same VIN. The VIN can also be described as an ID tag for your vehicle. While the VIN does not identify you personally, the 17 characters are unique and differentiate your car from all other cars on the road.

1. What is the VIN used for?

There are so many vehicles on the road and an equally high number of buyers out there. It is important for consumers to know the purpose of a car’s VIN number, how it can be decoded and what uses it can be put to if required.  Most drivers just think of the VIN as a formality or something that is on their car’s paperwork as an identification mark. While the VIN is a form of ID, it can be used to answer car-related queries.

2. Where is the VIN?

Most people drive their cars without ever knowing anything about the VIN and its importance. Every car manufactured not only in the United States but globally has a VIN number, which is a mixture of 17 characters (numbers and letters). The VIN number is usually displayed on the driver side of the dash just underneath the front of the windshield. There is usually a thin strip attached to the dash which most people cannot remove.

3. What do the Characters Mean?

The first three characters usually reveal where the car was made and by which company. In other words, this is your vehicle’s World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) number. The first digit represents the vehicle’s country of origin; the second digit indicates the manufacturer and the third digit indicates the vehicle type.

Digits 4 to 9 can also be classified as the Vehicle Description Section (VDS). These characters are references for the car mechanics since they provide information on engine type, safety features, body, and transmission. This information is required for servicing the car.

The 9th character verifies that your car VIN is legitimate. There are online tools that can help you determine if this is the original VIN or a fraud. This digit can help detect if a VIN is invalid. This is usually done through a mathematical formula that is developed by the Department of Transportation.

The 10th character represents the model year of your car and the 11th character represents the manufacturing plant.

Characters 12-17 allow you to know when the car actually came off the assembly line. This is important information when someone is trying to sell a classic or limited edition car. This is usually how auctioneers of old cars check the age of the car.

4. Knowing the VIN is Crucial When Buying a Used Car

For the average driver, it is important to know the VIN when buying a used car.

For example, if the seller tells you that the car came with Anti Brake Locking system when it was made, you can easily confirm that claim by decoding characters 4-8 on the VIN number. If the seller is telling you the truth, then you will be able to find that information in your search and the VIN will confirm it.

If you are looking to buy a second-hand car, you can also use the VIN number to check for the car’s history. If the seller tells you that the car has never been in an accident, the CarFax report will tell you if that is the truth, because when a car undergoes major repair, the VIN is entered into a registry which can be accessed through these reports.

Kelly Young is a writer born and raised in Toronto. Proud of her simple and cozy life, a perfect evening for Kelly would be to snuggle up in bed with her cat and a well-written historic memoir.