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How Can I Find Out If a Vehicle Has Been Used as a Tow Truck or Other Heavy Duty Vehicle Using the VIN?

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What is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique string of numeric and alphanumeric characters assigned to a vehicle that contains information to describe and identify the vehicle. It was first used in 1954 in the United States and was standardized by the NHTSA in 1981 for vehicles intended for use in the U.S. It is like a social security number for cars and every VIN is unique to that specific car. The VIN number for heavy-duty trucks can be located in a few different places, including the driver’s side front frame rail, the driver’s side door frame, above the sun visor, and inside the glove box. The VIN contains a variety of information, including the year, make, model, engine, body and drive type, passenger restraint system, manufacturing location, and serial number. It can be found in documents such as titles, registrations, insurance documents, and service documents. Knowing how to read a VIN unlocks a ton of information about a vehicle, including if it has been in an accident before or if it has been stolen.

What information can be found in a vehicle’s VIN?

1. Manufacturer

The manufacturer section of a vehicle’s VIN can provide information about the vehicle’s origin, make, model year, and manufacturer. The first three characters, known as the World Manufacturer Identifier, denote the vehicle’s manufacturer and place of origin. The next eight characters, called the Vehicle Identifier Section, are used by the manufacturer to identify the particular vehicle. The 10th character is used to denote the model year, with numeric characters indicating a model year of 1980-2009 and alphabetic characters indicating a model year of 2010-2039. Additionally, some manufacturers will enter the code “MH” for motor home in the “body type” area of the certificate of origin, data record, and title, respectively. Finally, registered owners should be notified by first class mail within 60 days of notification to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a recall decision.

2. Model

A vehicle’s model can be found in its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), along with a wealth of other useful information. The VIN is a unique code that is 17 characters long and is composed of three segments. The first three characters, the World Manufacturer Identifier, indicate the vehicle’s manufacturer and the region where it was made. The next eight characters are the Vehicle Identifier Section and are used by the manufacturer to identify that particular vehicle. The 10th character of this section is used to identify the model year. If the character is numeric, the model year is 1980-2009, and if it is alphabetic, the model year is 2010-2039. The last six characters are collectively called the Vehicle Descriptor Section and provide information such as the vehicle’s weight, platform, model, trim, engine size, and horsepower. Additionally, multi-stage vehicles have a unique set of codes, such as “MH” for motor homes, that are used to identify them.

3. Year

The year information found in a vehicle’s VIN can be determined by looking at the 10th character of the Vehicle Identifier Section. If the character in position 7 is numeric, the model year is 1980-2009; if it’s alphabetic, the model year is 2010-2039. For example, if the 7th character is “9” and the 10th character is “T,” then the vehicle’s model year is 1996. Additionally, the filing season for Form 2290 filers is July 1 through June 30, and the filing deadline for Form 2290 is based on the month you first use the taxable vehicle on public highways during the reporting period.

4. Vehicle Identification Number

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique code used by the automotive industry to identify motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. It is a 17-digit code that includes a serial number and other information about the car, such as the model year, make, engine, body and drive type, passenger restraint system, where it was manufactured, and the serial number. The first three characters are called the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), and the fourth to eight characters are the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). The ninth character is the check digit, the 10th character is the model year, the 11th and 12th to 17th characters identify the plant that made the vehicle and its production number, respectively. Beginning on September 1, 2021, a VIN check is required before registering a vehicle if the title is from another state or the vehicle was registered in another state, and the model year of the vehicle is 2001 or newer.

5. Type of Vehicle

The type of vehicle in a vehicle’s VIN can be determined by looking at the body type model (BTM). The BTM is a code used to differentiate between different vehicle types, such as passenger cars, pickup trucks, multipurpose vehicles, station wagons, and buses. For example, a pickup truck has a BTM of PK, a club cab pickup has a BTM of PC, a 3-door extended cab pickup has a BTM of 3C, and a 4-door extended cab pickup has a BTM of 4C. In addition, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) must be provided for all pickup trucks when the application includes any of the following forms: Verification of Vehicle (REG 31), Application for Registration of a New Vehicle (REG 397), or Report of Sale—Used Vehicle (REG 51). The GVWR is used to determine if the vehicle falls within the CVC definition of a pickup truck.

6. Manufacture Number

The manufacture number is known as a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It is a unique code that contains information about the vehicle’s manufacturer, region of production, model year, plant of production and the vehicle’s production number. The first three characters in the VIN are referred to as the World Manufacturer Identifier, which contains information about the vehicle’s manufacturer and the region where it was made. In North America and China, the 11th and 12th to 17th digits identify the plant that made the vehicle and that vehicle’s production number, respectively. The Vehicle Identifier Section consists of eight characters and is used by the manufacturer to identify the particular vehicle. The 10th character is used to identify the model year, with the 7th character being used to distinguish between 1980-2009 (numeric) and 2010-2039 (alphabetic). In addition, heavy-duty truck VIN numbers may also contain information about the core vehicle information, such as the year, make, model, engine, body and drive type, passenger restraint system, as well as when and where they were manufactured and the serial number.

7. Sequence Number

The sequence number is the last 6 digits of a VIN and it provides information about the vehicle’s serial number. The sequence number is an important part of the VIN as it helps identify the specific vehicle it is assigned to. This number can also be used to track the history of the vehicle, like when it was manufactured and where it was made. It can also be used to identify any recalls or problems that the vehicle may have. Beyond the sequence number, the VIN also includes other identifying information including the manufacturer, year, and model of the vehicle.

8. Check Digit

A check digit is the last character in a vehicle’s VIN and is used to verify the accuracy of the VIN. It is important to ensure that the VIN is correctly identified so that the vehicle’s information can be accurately accessed, such as its make, model, and year. It also helps protect against theft and fraud by verifying that the VIN is legitimate. It is particularly important to have the check digit when performing a VIN search, as it is an essential part of the verification process. The check digit helps determine whether the VIN is accurate and can help prevent errors that may occur due to an incorrect VIN.

9. Vehicle Type

The vehicle type description found in a vehicle’s VIN can tell you a lot about the vehicle, including the model year (from the 10th character), the vehicle’s weight, platform, model, trim, engine size, and horsepower (from the Vehicle Descriptor Section). Additionally, the 7th character may be used to determine whether the model year is 1980-2009 (numeric) or 2010-2039 (alphabetic). Depending on the other characteristics of the vehicle, it may also need to be registered as a commercial vehicle. Examples of commercial vehicles include multipurpose vehicles, passenger-type vehicles transporting persons for hire, pickup trucks with a camper permanently attached, and buses. Motor trucks, pickups, and station wagons may be registered as either passenger or commercial vehicles. Pickups must include the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) on the registration application.

10. Assembly Plant

What information can be found in a vehicle’s VIN at the assembly plant? [Expanded list]:

• The vehicle’s plant of manufacture

• The 11th and 12th to 17th digits which identify the plant that made the vehicle and that vehicle’s production number

• The World Manufacturer Identifier which shows the vehicle’s manufacturer and the region where it was made

• The First-Stage Manufacturer and Final-Stage Manufacturer who performed the manufacturing operations

• The model year of the vehicle

• The make of the multi-stage manufacture

• The code for the body type of the vehicle

• The VIN which identifies the completed vehicle after multi-stage manufacture

• The independent life support systems which meet the ANSI/NFPA 501 c standard

• Separate 110-125 volt electrical power supply and/or LP gas supply

• The four facilities: cooking, refrigeration or ice box, self-contained toilet, heating and/or air conditioning, and a portable water supply system

• The beefier version axles which are built specifically for the demanding loads involved in hauling an RV.

11. Model Year

The model year of a vehicle can typically be determined from the tenth character of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If the seventh character is numeric, the vehicle’s model year is within 1980-2009. If it’s alphabetic, the model year is between 2010-2039. The production number and plant that made the car can also be identified with the 11th and 12th to 17th digits of the VIN. An automotive professional can assist in decoding the VIN.

12. Weight Rating

Weight rating is a measure of the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can hold in terms of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCWR) and gross axle weight rating (GAWR). This information is found in the vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) and is used to determine the maximum weight the vehicle can safely carry.

The GVWR indicates the maximum weight the car can safely hold while sitting still and the GCWR indicates the maximum weight of the tow vehicle and trailer combined. The GAWR indicates the maximum amount of weight that can be placed on each axle and the curb weight indicates how much the vehicle weighs without anyone in it or any cargo. The tongue weight is the force pushing down on the trailer hitch by the load being hauled.

The weight rating information found in the VIN can affect how much a vehicle can safely tow or carry. If the weight of the trailer or cargo being towed exceeds the tow vehicle’s towing capacity, the vehicle can be overloaded, which can cause the vehicle to become unsteady and potentially lead to an accident. It can also affect the amount of fees charged for overloading. For instance, if the total weight of the vehicle and trailer exceed the GCWR, then an additional fee may be required.

13. Engine Type

The engine type information in a vehicle’s VIN can be found in the Vehicle Descriptor Section, which is the first 6 characters of the VIN. The engine size, horsepower, and other details about the engine are encoded in these characters. Depending on the make and model, the information encoded in the Vehicle Descriptor Section may vary across OEMs. To find out more about the engine type, you can refer to the World Manufacturer Identifier (the first 3 characters of the VIN), which will tell you the manufacturer and region of origin for the vehicle. The 10th character of the VIN can also tell you the model year of the vehicle.

14. Vehicle Safety Recall Information

By using a vehicle’s VIN, you can access recall information provided by the manufacturer that may not yet be posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) site. This information can include details on how and why recall campaigns are initiated, your rights and responsibilities when a vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment is recalled, information on whether or not a specific vehicle needs to be repaired as part of a recall, and any interim safety guidance provided by the manufacturer. You can also sign up for general recall alerts via email or download the NHTSA’s free SaferCar app to receive an alert on your phone when it discovers a safety recall for the vehicle or equipment you entered.

15. Vin Breakdown

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique string of numeric and alphanumeric characters assigned to a vehicle that contains information to describe and identify the vehicle. This 17-digit code is divided into four components:

World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) – This is a 3-digit code that identifies the vehicle manufacturer.

Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS) – This is a 4-digit code that describes the vehicle’s body style, engine type, and transmission type.

Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS) – This is also a 6-digit code that identifies the vehicle’s specific features and options.

Check Digit – This is a 1-digit code that is used to confirm the authenticity of the VIN.

The VIN is used to track a vehicle’s history and is vital for warranty claims and financing checks. Heavy-duty truck VIN numbers encode much of the core vehicle information, including year, make, model, engine, body and drive type, passenger restraint system, when and where they were manufactured, and the serial number. However, some of the information encoded in the vehicle descriptor section (positions 4-8) is subject to vary across OEMs.

 

How to Find Out if a Vehicle Has Been Used as a Tow Truck or Other Heavy Duty Vehicle Using the VIN?

Step 1: Check the definition of commercial vehicles

A commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property. Examples of commercial vehicles include multipurpose vehicles, passenger-type vehicles transporting persons for hire, pickup trucks with a camper permanently attached, station wagons, and buses. To check if a vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle, you can use the Vehicle Identification Number Analysis (VINA) program. This program will generate a BTM (body type model) that will indicate whether the vehicle is a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle. If the BTM generated by VINA is not recognized by the DMVA System, you can determine whether the vehicle is a pickup truck and has a GVWR of 11,499 pounds or less. If so, then you can change the BTM to match the form you are using (REG 31, REG 397, or REG 51).

Step 2: Identify the type of vehicle you are looking for

If you’re looking to identify the type of vehicle you’re interested in when checking if it had been used for towing or other heavy duty activities, the best way is to use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that:

Step 1: Locate the VIN. It’s usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side, or on the driver’s side door jamb. In some cases, you may find it on the front of the engine block, or stamped onto the frame.

Step 2: Identify the first three characters, also known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). These characters will tell you the vehicle’s manufacturer and the region in which it was made. For example, if the first character is a “W,” then the vehicle was made in Germany, while “P0” would indicate it was made by Porsche.

Step 3: The next six characters, referred to as the Vehicle Descriptor Section, will provide information about the car, like its weight, platform, model, trim, engine size, and horsepower. Different manufacturers use different systems for this portion of the VIN so you may need to research the specifics of your vehicle.

Step 4: The last eight characters are the Vehicle Identifier Section, which identifies that particular vehicle. The 10th character is the model year, which is identified by a chart. If the character in position 7 is numeric, the model year is 1980-2009, and if it’s alphabetic, the model year is 2010-2039.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at a VIN that starts with “W0P0T2099T.” The first three characters (“W0P0”) indicate that the vehicle was made in Germany by Porsche. The following six characters provide additional information about the car, while the last eight characters are the Vehicle Identifier Section, which reveals that the model year is 1996.

By checking the VIN, you can determine the type of vehicle you’re looking for, its model year, and various other details. It’s also important to note that you may need to register your vehicle as commercial if certain conditions apply. Additionally, you can also search for a VIN using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ID or complaints by keyword.

Step 3: Research weight-distribution hitches and install one if necessary

Researching weight-distribution hitches can help find out if a vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle using the VIN by comparing the towing capacity of the vehicle with the maximum weight the hitch can handle. To do this, one must first calculate the total weight of the vehicle by adding the curb weight (found on the VIN sticker) and the weight of passengers, fuel, and cargo. This number must then be subtracted from the vehicle’s GCWR (which can be looked up using the VIN if it’s not on the door sticker) to calculate the maximum towing capacity. The hitch must then be checked to make sure it can also handle the weight of the trailer. If the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle exceeds the weight the hitch can handle, this may indicate the vehicle was used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle in the past.

Step 4: Research vin decode software and install if necessary

Step-by-step instructions on how to research and install VIN decode software to find out if a vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle:

Visit the NHTSA website and search for “VIN Decoder”.

On the NHTSA VIN decoder page, locate the section for “VINBasic HD”.

Download the VINBasic HD software from the NHTSA website and install it on your computer.

Once installed, open the VINBasic HD software.

Enter the VIN number for the vehicle you want to research.

The VINBasic HD software will provide detailed information about the vehicle such as the build plant, country of manufacture, and other details.

Use the “Vehicle Use Type” section of the report to determine if the vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle.

Step 5: Read and follow directions for decoding the VINs

Step 1: Find out your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This is a 17-digit code used to identify your vehicle that includes a serial number and other information about the car. The VIN can be found on various documents, such as the title, registration, insurance documents, and service documents.

Step 2: Use the NHTSA’s VIN decoder to identify specific information encoded in the number. You can enter the VIN and query specific information. For example, if you want to know the model year, enter the VIN and the 11th and 12th to 17th digits will identify the plant that made the vehicle and the vehicle’s production number.

Step 3: Use the same decoder to pull a report to check if the information is as it’s presented. The same thing that helps defend against theft also prevents dealers or private sellers from misrepresenting a car or its history before a sale. Law enforcement officers and consumers can check the VIN to ensure it is as it’s presented.

Step 4: To find out if a vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle, you will need to consult a vehicle history report. This can be obtained from a variety of providers and will provide detailed information on the car’s past, including any previous incidents or accidents.

Step 5: Consider consulting an automotive professional. If you’re still having difficulty reading or understanding the VIN, a professional can assist you throughout the process.

Step 6: Search for license plates associated with tow trucks or other heavy duty vehicles

Step 1: Visit the Department of Finance Business Center website at www.nyc.gov/visitdof to locate the nearest Center.

Step 2: Gather the required documents that you need to obtain information about the license plate associated with the vehicle. This includes a valid driver’s license, the original title for your vehicle, and if you are not the titleholder, a notarized authorization from the titleholder and the titleholder’s driver’s license. If you are leasing a vehicle, contact the bank holding the title in their name and request that they send you a notarized authorization along with a certified copy of the title.

Step 3: Visit the Department of Finance Business Center in person and present the required documents.

Step 4: Request to search for the license plate associated with a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle using the VIN.

Step 5: Provide the VIN to the representative at the Business Center and they will search the DMV database to find the license plate associated with the vehicle.

Step 7: Check the owner’s manual for instructions on how to use the vehicle safely

Step 1: Register your vehicle, tires, car seats & equipment and check recalls twice a year. This will help ensure that you are aware of any potential recall campaigns or safety defects that could affect your vehicle or any of its components.

Step 2: Download the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Recall Tool to check if your vehicle has had any recalls in the last 15 years. This tool can be found online or you can download the SaferCar app.

Step 3: Check the curb weight of your vehicle to make sure it is within the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit for towing. This information can be found in your owner’s manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb.

Step 4: Inspect the trailer hitch and other components of your vehicle for any damage or rust. Make sure all components are securely fastened and in good working order.

Step 5: Check the tire pressure of your vehicle and trailer before towing. The tire pressure should meet the manufacturer’s recommended level for towing.

Step 6: Check the brakes on your vehicle and trailer before towing. Make sure the brakes are functioning properly and that the pads are in good condition.

Step 7: Make sure to plan your route for towing. Obey all speed limits and drive safely. Make sure the trailer is able to clear any low bridges or tight turns.

Step 8: Make sure to stop and rest when towing for long periods of time. Driving while tired is dangerous and can lead to accidents.

Step 9: Make sure to use the correct signals when towing. This will help other drivers to know what you are doing and how to safely maneuver around you.

Step 10: Make sure to follow any other instructions provided by the manufacturer. This could include specific instructions for towing that must be followed in order to safely tow your trailer.

Step 8: Ask family or friends if they know someone who has used the vehicle as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle

To find out if a vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy duty vehicle using the VIN, you will need to do the following steps:

Look for the VIN sticker on the vehicle, which should include a curb weight.

Add the weight of passengers, fuel, and cargo to the curb weight.

Subtract this number from the vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR).

Consult the owner’s manual or your manufacturer’s online tools to determine your vehicle’s towing capacity.

Compare this towing capacity to the weight of the trailer that you are planning to tow.

If the vehicle has enough towing capacity to handle the trailer, then you can use it as a tow truck.

If the vehicle does not have enough towing capacity, then you may need to consider replacing the standard axles with beefier versions built specifically for the demanding loads involved in hauling an RV.

Step 9: Contact law enforcement to ask about any records associated with the used vehicle

If you are looking to find out about any records associated with a used vehicle, you will need to contact law enforcement. To do this, you will first need to obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the vehicle in question. This can usually be found on the dashboard of the driver’s side of the vehicle, or on the vehicle’s title or registration documents. Once you have obtained the VIN, you can use a VIN Decoder to easily pull a detailed report. This will tell you if the vehicle has ever been reported stolen or involved in an accident.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, you should contact your local law enforcement directly. They will be able to provide more detailed information on any records associated with the used vehicle.

Step 10: Search online classifieds to see if any used vehicles are available

Step 1: Obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the used vehicle.

Step 2: Use an online classifieds service to search for the VIN. You can use keywords such as “tow truck”, “tow vehicle”, or “heavy duty vehicle” for your search.

Step 3: Read the details of any relevant listings to determine whether the vehicle has been used for such purposes.

Step 4: If applicable, contact the seller for further information or clarification.

Step 5: If the vehicle has been used as a tow truck or other heavy-duty vehicle, verify this information with your local DMV by requesting a VIN check.