Do you remember Kitt from Knight Rider or Christina from the movie of the same name? No common vehicle was ever as heroic or evil as those, but every car must have a unique name. A typical name consist of 17 characters, namely, numbers and letters. This string of data is called a Vehicle Identification Number (abbreviated as VIN).
Keeping your car’s VIN number is beneficial in many ways. Drivers need it for vehicle registration or auto insurance application. It is also the primary identifier that the authorities use to help people claim back their stolen cars. Being so closely related to the ownership, manufacture, and accident history, a VIN code helps customers trace the real history of used cars before buying them.
Identification by number works for many vehicles apart from cars. According to ISO 3833, motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, trailers, and self-propelled vehicles (like trams) should all have identification numbers.
Where to Find VIN Number
Identifier can be found both in the documents and on the vehicle itself. If you are about to buy a used vehicle, look for it whenever you can. The code should be same in all the locations. Unfortunately, sometimes auto dealers provide false documents or reuse details of salvaged cars. Matching a car VIN number in the documents with that on the car will make any fraud apparent.
On Your Vehicle
VIN is typically assigned to a vehicle by the firm that produced it. Every brand has its own guidelines regarding the location of the identifier. The surest way to learn about VIN number location on your specific car is entering the request like “Where is VIN manufacturer model” in Google or looking for the corresponding article on the website of the manufacturer. Car manual can also tell you where is the VIN number.
Physically, VIN is typically placed in the following zones:
- The lower corner of the windshield close to the driver (and visible from outside). In some manuals, this part is called the dashboard.
- Driver’s (or passenger’s) door jamb. It is visible on the door frame when you open the door. The sticker with VIN is close to one of the ends of the seatbelt (so-called shut line).
- The front part of the block with engine, right under the car’s hood.
Some manufacturers also stamp a VIN code into the floor, put it on chassis (hence another name, ‘chassis number’), and locate it under the spare tire or in the well for one of the wheels. The models that have touch screens or come with dedicated apps give you instant digital access to the identifier upon request (find out more in your car manual).
Motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters usually have the identification number etched as a vertical line on their steering neck or near the lower part of the motor cylinders. In the case of all-terrain vehicles, try looking at the frame near the shifter or find the cross beam under the hood.
Trailers have VIN on the stickers or plates on their tongue. Some manufacturers also put it on the frame or in other locations.
Imported vehicles pass additional VIN inspection that may result in assigning the number to the car that does not have it. Some countries of the world (e.g. New Zealand) inspect vehicle numbers at the national level. In the US, the national office of the Department of Motor Vehicles will only verify VIN of the vehicles that are older than 25 years. In other cases, vehicle pass statewide VIN inspections.
Every state has its own legislation: in Montana and Michigan, for instance, you can skip the inspection altogether. To find the number assigned by the local authorities, study their guidelines (which are usually available on the web).
In the documents
According to the US DMV and some of the manufacturers, VIN is indicated in such documents as:
- insurance card;
- vehicle registration card;
- vehicle title;
- records about body repair;
- instructions and manuals;
- reports by the police.
What does a VIN number look like?
Before looking for the VIN number on car’s details, it is good to know how the thing looks like.
First of all, it consists of a string of characters and a barcode, though the latter is not compulsory. The letters I and O are not used in this number, but you will see 1 and 0 instead.
Secondly, VIN is tiny, sometimes even smaller than a barcode on the products from supermarket. Basically, it is just enough size to be readable.
Last but not least, a VIN on car comes in several forms:
- a sticker, usually somewhere around the door;
- an etching on the floor and metal parts;
- an engraving on the front window.
Trailers usually have a plaque with their brand name and model number. The model number is not the same as the one you need; basically, a VIN for trailers is like a VIN for cars.
As for the bikes, 17 characters are etched onto metallic details during the manufacture.
You’ve spotted VIN, what’s next?
The first thing to do with the number is save it somewhere for future. The identification number is essential for dealing with the police, insurance companies, and the local DMV or tax administration on various vehicle-related matters.
An identifier of a used car will help you get more facts about it with a special online search engine.
How to decode VIN online
Every character of 17 means something: the model, the country and year of manufacture, and so on. You can decode VIN number character by character, getting all the model and engine specs. However, this will not give you the full story of a car in question.
Our online VIN numbers decoder will go far beyond deciphering the code. It will also retrieve the history of a vehicle from numerous databases that are associated with it. You will get to know whether the vehicle was ever stolen or rebuilt after an environmental disaster. Try it now for free!