What is a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN), which is the unique vehicle number for your car, is a string containing numbers and letters that are specific to it. Each VIN is unique, much like a fingerprint. In some cases they might be called VIN numbers. Knowing your VIN number can help you make informed decisions.

VINs are used to sign up for Insurance, buy used cars, and protect yourself from vehicle-related theft or fraudulent acts.

Vehicle identification numbers explained

Each VIN must be exactly 17 digits in length. If your VIN has fewer than 17 digits it is incomplete. You should search elsewhere for the complete VIN.

The VIN contains important information, including vehicle specifications and the place it was made. Each digit represents a code.

Each code is assigned a specific position in the larger string. The first character, for example, always indicates which country made the car.

Each VIN can only be used to identify a vehicle. However, the codes are the same regardless of VIN. It can be used quickly to identify a vehicle because every VIN is unique.

How to find a VIN

VINs are printed on cars to make it easy to look up VIN information. The VIN is usually located on the driver’s dashboard right next to the windshield. There are a few other places you can look if the VIN is not listed on your dashboard.

You may also find the VIN under the car’s frame or on the driver’s side door. The VIN may be located under the car’s hood on some models.

It is possible that the VIN has been deliberately hidden if you have difficulty finding it. Your VIN will be listed on your car title and registration, as well as your car insurance policy documents.

How to decode a VIN

Each VIN has 17 digits. These can be broken down into three sections: World Manufacturer ID (WMI), vehicle description and vehicle identifier. Let’s take an overview of each section.

Section: World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI).

The first section contains 3 digits. This section contains the most basic information about the car, including the country it came from.

  • Digit1 indicates which country produced the car.
  • Digit2 indicates that the car’s manufacturer.
  • Digit3 provides information about the car type when combined with the first two numbers.

Section on Vehicle Descriptor:

The second section contains more information about the car, including technical details about the type.

  • Digits 4-8 give additional information about the car such as its model, body, and engine type.
  • Digit9 is the check number that is assigned by the manufacturer in order to verify the accuracy of the VIN.

Section Vehicle Identifier:

The third section further identifies each vehicle. This section can include the car’s serial number, and other manufacturer-specific identifying information.

  • Digit10 indicates the year of the car.
  • Digit11 indicates which plant assembled the vehicle.
  • Digits 12-17 indicate the car’s serial number.

The Reasons You Might Need Your VIN

The VIN number of your car has many purposes. VIN searches are used by law enforcement agencies, car insurance providers, and used car buyers for a variety of purposes. You will also need your VIN for different purposes. Here are a few instances where your VIN can be useful.

  • Buying car insurance – You’ll need your VIN to verify the details of the vehicle when you sign up for new car insurance. Many car insurance companies now allow you to enter your car’s details to receive a quote. To finalize your policy, you will need to provide the provider with your VIN in order to verify the car’s specs.
  • Search for previous owners of a motor car – The VIN number is used to determine the car’s history of ownership. You can use the VIN to search for information about previous owners of a car. You can do this using many VIN lookup websites such as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Get information about accidents and repairs. Carfax can provide a vehicle history report that will include details about major accidents and repair records. The report should include any title brands.
  • Look for recalls by manufacturers – You can find recalls by using a VIN search tool to look up the VIN of your car. Check to make sure there are no safety recalls if you plan to purchase a used vehicle.
  • Identify stolen cars – The National Insurance Crime Bureau can provide a VIN check to determine if the car was reported as stolen. This is a good practice to make sure you are not buying stolen property if you are looking for a used vehicle.

How an insurance company uses your VIN

Car insurance companies verify VIN numbers when issuing new policies to make sure they have correct vehicle information. Online quoting tools allow you to quickly get quotes and sometimes, without submitting a VIN.

However, the VIN will be required before the car company issues the policy. This allows the provider to verify your information in order to provide a quote. The VIN gives the provider information about the vehicle’s history. This includes whether it has been stolen or has had a title branded with flood damage or salvage.

While you don’t usually need your VIN for a quote on car insurance, it is a good idea.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get car insurance if my VIN is not available?

Your VIN will be required at one point in the insurance process. This is to ensure that the provider can offer you coverage. However, you can often get an insurance quote even without your VIN.

Which is the best auto insurance company?

Car insurance requirements are specific to each person and their car. Therefore, the best insurer will depend on your particular situation. It’s a smart idea to compare quotes and shop around for the best policy that suits your needs.

Can I still get insurance even if my car has a branded title?

Insurance companies have very strict guidelines about what coverage they will provide for cars with branded titles. Many won’t even cover certain types of title brands. Some providers might agree to provide minimum coverage for vehicles with title brands. However, you need to be aware that buying one of these vehicles will reduce your options for insurance.