Beginning in 1981, automakers have been required to add a 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to each vehicle they make.
It basically serves as the car’s fingerprint or social security number, for example, as no two vehicles have the same VIN number.
How to check a VIN number
If a seller isn’t willing to share the VIN number with you, proceed with extreme caution!
This important piece of information tells you just about everything you need to know about a particular vehicle and its past.
VIN numbers first came about in 1954. But back then, they weren’t all standardized and organized the way they are now, so it was much tougher to actually take any meaning from them. Plus, many cars straight up didn’t have one, or had one that in no way served a valuable purpose.
When you're thinking about purchasing a car from an individual seller or dealership, the VIN can be your closest companion.
Enter it on Carfax or Autocheck, who'll disclose to you for nothing out of pocket whether there is anything worth noting – accidents, claims, where the vehicle was and who owned it, and much more.
These services will likewise give you the make, model and year related with the VIN—if these don't coordinate with the vehicle you're taking a gander at, something fishy is going on.
The VIN is displayed in a couple of better places on the vehicle.
Near the windshield, the VIN number will be located on a sort of ‘plate,’ visible from within and outside of the vehicle in most cases. It will be on the driver’s side, right at the bottom of the windshield.
This one requires opening the door to see it from the outside. ALWAYS make sure that the numbers match. Rarely is this an issue, but if the two numbers don’t match, there may be a case of fraud or theft going on. Likely, this would mean that the car isn’t actually the one that it is being passed off as being, as may have been stolen.
Your insurance policy, for example, requires the VIN number and will display it on all official insurance paperwork. The registration card is another place. When the state that you live in issues you a registration card, the VIN number will be on the document along with how much the annual registration fee is.
NOTE: We suggest that after purchasing a vehicle, you take note of the VIN number and keep it written down in a safe place outside of the vehicle. Preferably with your important paperwork and bill information. That way, if the car is stolen or towed, you’ll have it at the ready.
Next step is how to read VIN number, check this post
For a charge, agencies like Carfax can provide potential buyers with the auto's full history, including enlistments, mishaps (insurance agencies and mechanics monitor VINs), and odometer readings.
Having this data won't just enable you to settle on an educated decision, it lets you know if the car has been through situations like theft, a natural disaster.
For example: flooding is a terrible thing for cars, it is advised to stay away from flood-damaged vehicles. Any claims, major maintenance (think engine replacement, etc.) and notable events in the vehicle’s life will be noted on this report.
It'll likewise guarantee you're getting a reasonable cost.
No one wants to pay any more than they have to for a used car, and a VIN report makes sure you know exactly what you’re getting before you put down that final offer.
Want to know if there is now, or ever has been, a recall related to your car?
A VIN search with The Department of Transportation's National Highway Transit Safety Administration can let you know whether there are any open reviews on your auto.
What's more, if your auto is associated with a crash or other episode that you believe was caused by an imperfection, you can report it to the NHTSA utilizing the VIN.
They'll examine whether the auto and others like it ought to be reviewed.
When you are looking to buy a new or used car, you’ll have the opportunity to do a full VIN report through an agency such as Carfax (there are others as well, and the auto broker you’re using can guide you through the process using the company most relevant to your vehicle).
This will show you if there has been any issues with doubling or falsified use of that car’s VIN number. Obviously, you don’t want to buy a car that has been through fraud instances or other sketchy situations in the past.
Also, in the unfortunate instance that your vehicle is stolen, a VIN number will help the authorities in identifying it should the vehicle turn up later.
It also makes it much easier to get a replacement title if you need one, and to handle the ensuing police reports, insurance claims, and other necessary processes that follow.
As you can see, VIN numbers are an important part of a vehicle’s identity.
They’re like a window into the vehicle’s past.
By using the information provided via the VIN number, you can get a great picture of where the vehicle has been and, perhaps more importantly, how much you should be paying for it.
During the car buying process, bring up the VIN number with the seller just to get a feel for how open they are in providing it.
It should be public information! No VIN, no sale – that should be your stance.
If you have enjoyed this article, please share on social media! Awareness is key to understanding, and so many people don’t take the time to learn about their automobiles. Have you seen a VIN listed somewhere other than what we noted here? Share it in the comments so that we can check our own vehicles!