What is a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a 17 characters long unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual vehicles. Prior to 1981, all vehicle manufacturers either used their own numbers to mark their cars or did not mark them at all. But now with international use of VIN it is easy to distinguish one make of car from the others.

How can I find a car’s VIN?

You can find a car’s VIN on the title, insurance policy and service records. If you don’t have this documentation for the vehicle, you’ll need to look for the VIN. The VIN is usually located on the driver’s side of the dashboard, where it is visible through the windshield. It may also be on the driver’s side door jamb sticker. It is where the door latches to the car body and can only be seen when you open the door and look for it. In some cars, the VIN is displayed on the original engine and hood.

What is a VIN used for?

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How do I decode a VIN?

Each of the VIN’s 17 characters has a significant meaning which, when decoded can help you learn more about your car’s manufacturer, model and unique features. If you are getting this vehicle pre-used then this help you obtain valuable information about the vehicle’s history too. Also no two vehicles can carry the same VIN so it is possible for collectors to lookup the first ever model made or last model off the assembly line.

The VIN is divided into four parts:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
World Manufacturer Identifier Vehicle Description Accuracy Check Vehicle Identification

World Manufacturer’s Information

In the World Manufacturer’s Information section, 1st Character tells you in which country the car was built. Countries can be identified by either numbers or letters. The United States is indicated by 1, 4 or 5; Canada is 2 and Mexico is 3. Character 2 identifies the manufacturer with either a number or letter. For example, 1G is for General Motors in USA. Character 3 is used by manufacturers for vehicle category (bus, truck etc.). Hence 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars; 1G2, Pontiac passenger cars; and 1GC, Chevrolet trucks.

Vehicle Description

The 4th to 8th characters in the vehicle description section (characters 4-8) convey information about the body style, engine type and braking system to model, series, restraint system and other features. 8th digit is used to identify the engine type whenever there is more than one engine choice for the vehicle. Example: for the 2007 Chevrolet Corvette, 8th character `U` denotes a 6.0L V8 and `E` denotes 7.0L V8 engine.

VIN Accuracy Check

The 9th character serves as a VIN accuracy check, as it verifies the preceding VIN characters. This character is determined using a Department of Transportation mathematical computation.

Vehicle Identification

The vehicle identification section includes characters 10th and 11th, which indicate the model year and assembly plant, respectively. These characters may be numbers or letters.

The 12th to 17th characters are the vehicle’s unique serial number, which is assigned by the manufacturer and describe when this vehicle got off the assembly line. This number is valuable to collectors, as it indicates whether this car may be the first or last in its production run.