What does the vehicle identification number (VIN) mean?


When someone asks how to identify a car, perhaps the most popular answer would be the vehicle’s number plate. However, it’s not an as accurate tool as a VIN which is given by the manufacturer.

We wouldn’t be able to identify a specific car without the VIN. No two vehicles would have the same one, so it’s like a fingerprint. It’s usually 17 characters long, including digits and capital letters. VIN tells not only all of the car’s unique features and specifications but also a manufacturing year or the manufacturer. The VIN has a lot of power as you can track registrations, thefts, recalls, etc. using it.

Since 1981, VIN is a unique 17 characters long identification code of any car, bus, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicles. That year the USA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized VIN format.

So, every vehicle, made in 1981 or later, has a unique VIN code. Hence, it’s possible to attribute a VIN to the specific car and track every event that happens during its usage years.

The vehicles produced before 1981 also may have VINs, but they have from 11 to 17 characters and aren’t standardized in other ways.

What is the meaning of the numbers and letters of VIN?

There actually is a breakdown of what each number and letter in a VIN means, so going in order by characters:

  • 1st tells where the car was built,
  • 2nd and 3rd identify the manufacturer,
  • From 4th to 8th tell the brand, engine size and type,
  • 9th is a security code. It shows whether the VIN has been authorized by the manufacturer,
  • 10th reveals a year and a model of the car,
  • 11th tells how the car was assembled,
  • The last 6 characters make a serial number of the car.

Where can VIN be found?

Car manufacturers usually put VIN in a few locations on the vehicle’s body. Let’s go through the most popular places.

The VIN would usually be on the driver’s side at the dashboard. If you stand outside and look at the corner, where the dashboard meets the windshield, you will be able to view it well. In case it’s not there, open the driver’s door and look at the doorpost. You should be able to find the VIN in either of these places.

Besides that, your insurance policy, a car title, and registration should have the VIN on them, so check carefully.

How VIN decoders use it?

VIN code is a crucial tool for VIN decoder platforms Here is a list of the things that world’s best VIN decoders provide most often:

  • Genuine mileage
  • Accidents and damages history
  • Information if the vehicle has been registered in the databases of stolen cars
  • Archive photos
  • Manufacturer defects or recalls
  • List of equipment options that were installed in the factory
  • Records made in various official state institutions
  • Maintenance timetable

Knowing such information always enables car buyers to evaluate the real condition of the car they are interested in. So, you should never buy a used vehicle without checking it via the reliable VIN decoder.