What is a VIN Number?

cv vin checkA Vehicle Identification Number, (VIN) is the long, jumbled alpha-numeric on the driver-side of the dashboard - just kidding.

The VIN, also known as the Chassis number or often called, albeit redundantly, “the VIN Number” is a standardized set of alphabets and numbers used by manufacturers to identify each vehicle on the road.

Think of it as the unique code, DNA, or even some sort of Social Security Code that identifies and describes every of the vehicle you see on the American road.

Now, that’s not to say, cars in other countries don’t have VIN – they all do.

At a closer look – if you are not sure where to find the number, a quick tip is to stand outside the car and look at the driver-side doorjamb – you’ll see etched on a plate near the windscreen a series of letters and numbers. That’s the VIN.

For some manufacturers, the chassis number is stamped on the engine’s firewall; which means you may need to lift the bonnet to see it.

How many numbers are in a VIN?

Each VIN comprises 17-digits that include both letters and numbers. Before 1981, each car manufacturer decides what format and how long their VIN would be.

However, all that changed in 1981 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized it.

According to the NHTSA guideline, the VIN contains all letters of the alphabet excluding I (i), O (o), and Q (q) and numbers 1-9.

Decoding the VIN

The Chassis number to the untrained eyes is just a string of numbers and letters. However, underneath this seemingly random numbers is a trough of information about your vehicle.

The VIN when decoded provides vital information about a vehicle that includes where the car was built, identifies the manufacturer, details about the brand, engine size, and type, it also shows the year of manufacture plus model.

Now, the first thing to know when trying to read the VIN is that the numbers are organized into groups.

  • The first characters 1-3: uniquely identifies the country or region where the car was made, the manufacture, and manufacture’s division using the World manufacturer identifier.
  • Characters 4-8: are used by manufacturers to describe the vehicle. They are often used to identify a vehicle type, model, body style, or automobile platform used.
  • Character 9: used by manufacturers as an authentication code to show they authorized the vehicle.
  • Character 10: identifies the model year.
  • Character 11: Indicates the plant where the car was made or assembled.
  • Character 12-17: shows the serial number of the vehicle.

Now, there are several free online VIN checkers you can use to look up a vehicle’s data like the VinDecoder.net; Carfax, or Autocheck but we recommend carVertical - a blockchain based VIN decoder.

The VIN is not just a way to mark cars. It can save you from fraud especially if you are looking to buy a pre-owned vehicle.

By looking up the car on the MVR database using the VIN, you can see immediately, all the details of the vehicle including history like previous owners; the last time the car was inspected, whether it has ever been involved in any crash, and the mileage on the vehicle.