Most people think a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a random list of numbers and letters assigned to a vehicle – but it’s much more than that.
The VIN offers an abundance of information for drivers, car insurers, and anyone else who might need or want to know the vehicles history. The VIN can help the police prevent theft and fraud, and it can also help you avoid buying a lemon, or wrecked vehicle!
Your vehicle’s VIN is a mix of 17 letters and numbers that are displayed on the drivers side dash, under the windshield, and on the drivers door inside where it connects with the rest of your vehicle (like when you open the car door). The VIN is a unique marker for your vehicle and make identification much easier.
This post is sponsored by Winner Hyundai.
Many companies store, share and sell information using the VIN number. The biggest source of VIN information is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Repair shops also keep track for routine maintenance, accidents and flood damage. Local law enforcement and fire departments may have a list of them as well in their database for accident and thefts.
Insurance companies and car dealerships (think CARFAX) and junk and salvage companies also access and share info gathered on vehicles through their VIN number.
The first three characters of a VIN number are called the “World Manufacturer Identifier” The first letter corresponds to reveal where in the world your car was made. For example, 1,4, and 5 usually mean the U.S. 2 means Canada, J for Japan, and W for Germany.
While the standards vary between manufacturers and countries, these figures relay info about your car’s safety features, engine type, transmission, body, etc. It’s also a reference for mechanics and anyone who may service and work on your car.
The 9th character of a VIN is a ‘check digit’. It verifies that the VIN is legitimate and its not fraudulent.
The U.S Department of Transportation established a complex mathematical equation that multiplies and divides the numbers and letters of your VIN to arrive at the check digit – if it doesn’t match, something fishy is going on.
You can actually go online and use some tools to check to see if your digit is correct.
The 10th character will actually tell you what YEAR the vehicle is.
Cars from 1908 – 2000 typically carry a letter A-Y (for example A is for 1980, B is 1981, etc). Cars built between 2001- 2009 use the numbers 0-9 in order, and in 2010 many companies reset the lettering system.
Character 11 is the specific manufacturing plant for the specific company that made the vehicle.
This is identifying marks for your car specifically. Pretty much the last few digits tell us when your car came off the assembly line. These last 6 digits are unique and will never be the same as any other vehicle.