What Is a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?
A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique code given to each car sold in the United States. A VIN decoder lets owners or shoppers unlock vital information about the vehicle’s creation and its complete history.
Because each car has a unique VIN, it’s easier to track when that car is bought, sold, or serviced. Auto shops use VINs to record service visits, manufacturers and the federal government use VINs to issue safety recalls, and state agencies use VINs to identify vehicles when they’re registered, sold, or even stolen.
Since 1981, each new car has been given a standardized 17-digit code, which includes a serial number. Older cars may have VINs too, although they don’t follow the standardized formula. The history of the VIN began in the 1950s as automakers began stamping identification numbers on key parts and automobiles themselves. However, standardization did not come until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finalized the current method of tracking every car that rolls off an assembly line in the early 1980s.
Ways to Get a Free VIN Check With CARFAX
Get a Free CARFAX Report With Our Used Car Listings
Using CARFAX Used Car Listings is the only way to get a free, complete CARFAX Report. You can also take advantage of CARFAX data to find cars that are reported accident-free, have only one owner, and more.
Sign Up for CARFAX Car Care and Get a Free VIN Check
Create a free CARFAX Car Care account and view your car’s service history, get alerts for upcoming service, find trusted service shops, and be the first to know about open recalls.
Use CARFAX’s Free VIN Lookup Tools for Specific Issues
Use a VIN to Get a Car’s History-Based Value
Most car valuation tools use general information to estimate a car’s value, including the model’s brand and year. CARFAX’s History-Based Value Tool includes VIN-specific information, such as service and accident history, and number of owners, to provide a more complete picture of what it’s really worth.
Why a CARFAX Vehicle History Report Is Important
When you order a CARFAX Vehicle History Report, you can unlock the following important information about the car:
- Reported accidents
- Frame or structural damage
- Total loss accident history
- Ownership history
- Service History
- Open recalls
- Vehicle usage (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)
- Title information, including salvage or junk titles
- Odometer rollbacks
- Flood damage
- Airbag safety
This information can help you uncover any potential safety issues and, ultimately, help you decide if a car you’re considering is right for you and. You can have a look at a sample CARFAX report and see where CARFAX gets the data it includes in its Vehicle History Reports.
How To Decode a VIN
Characters in a VIN indicate a vehicle’s make, model, when it was built – and at which plant – and more.
How Many Numbers and Letters Are in a VIN?
VINs on new cars have 17 characters, while VINs on older vehicles may have as many as 16 characters.
Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS)
Digits 4 through 8 identify the vehicle model, body style, engine type, transmission and more. Service centers commonly use this information to identify an automaker’s systems so that they can properly service a car.
The ninth digit, or check digit, is used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)
VIN Decoding for the Model Year
Digits 10 through 17 make up the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The tenth digit indicates the year. The following chart indicates which letter represents which model year. Certain letters and numbers are not used because they can be confused with others. VINs do not include the letters I (i), O (o), Q (q), U (u) or Z (z), or the number 0
|Model Year||Model Year||Model Year||Model Year|
The 11th digit identifies the manufacturing plant where the vehicle was assembled. Each manufacturer has its own plant codes.
Digits 12 through 17 indicate the serial number. This number often indicates the sequence in which a vehicle came off the assembly line. Since there is no fixed standard for this number, a manufacturer can use this number differently.
Where Do You Find the VIN?
Where Can I find the VIN on my Car?
The two most common places to find the VIN are the dashboard at the base of the windshield and the driver’s door-jamb sticker. Other places include on the engine, stamped on the frame inside the hood and sometimes in the trunk on a sticker near where the spare tire is stored.
Where Can I find the VIN in my Vehicle’s Paperwork?
The VIN can be found on vehicle title documents and state registration forms. It’s also typically on a sticker in the owner’s manual, on insurance policies, or service records. New cars have the VIN on the window stickers.
What Other Types of Vehicles Have a VIN?
Do Motorcycles Have VINs?
Yes, and you can usually find them on the vehicle frame. NHTSA requires all motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), or “four-wheelers” and “three-wheelers,” to display their 17-digit unique vehicle identification number on the frame. Check your owner’s manual for the exact location.
Do Bicycles Have a VIN?
No. Bikes are not motorized and don’t have to be registered with state department of motor vehicles. They should have a manufacturer’s serial number which can be used to register a bike with a local municipality or on the national bike registry.
World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI):
The first three VIN digits of the VIN are the World Manufacturer Identifier or 3-digit WMI code. It identifies the manufacturer’s country of origin. The first character of the WMI is the region in which the manufacturer is located or the final point of assembly. Usually this is the country where the car was made, but in some European countries, it may be the country where the automaker is headquartered.
Country of Origin
The first VIN digit typically indicates the vehicle’s assembly country. Usually this is where the car was made, but in some European countries, it may be where the automaker is headquartered.
The second VIN digit indicates the manufacturer and the region where the vehicle was produced. Here are some common manufacturing countries:
The third VIN digit indicates the vehicle type or manufacturing division.
|A-C||Africa||AA-AH = South Africa|
|J-R||Asia||J = Japan
KL-KR = South Korea
L = China
MA-ME = India
MF-MK = Indonesia
PA-PE = Philippines
PL-PR = Malaysia
RF-RG = Taiwan
|S-Z||Europe||SA-SM = United Kingdom
SN-ST, W = Germany
SU-SZ = Poland
TA-TH = Switzerland
TJ-TP = Czech Republic
VF-VR = France
VS-VW = Spain
ZA-ZR = Italy
|1-5||North America||1, 4, 5 = United States
2 = Canada
3 = Mexico
|6-7||Oceania||6A-6W = Australia
7A-7E = New Zealand
|8-9||South America||8A-8E = Argentina
8F-8J = Chile
8L-8R = Ecuador
8X-82 = Venezuela
9A-9E, 93-99 = Brazil
9F-9J = Colombia