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What is a Vehicle Identification Number?

A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a 17-digit code used to identify a motor vehicle. It is a unique serial number that is assigned to each automobile in order to provide specific information about the vehicle’s make, model, year, engine size, country of origin, vehicle type, trim level, and plant name. The VIN can also be used to check for safety recalls, vehicle history reports, and other important information related to a vehicle. The VIN was first used in 1954, and it was standardized in 1981 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USDOT). A VIN inspection is a physical examination of a vehicle to ensure that the VIN matches the documentation of the vehicle.

 

What are the Uses of VINs?

1. Identify and track vehicles

Vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, are critical pieces of information for identifying the exact car you have, including the engine installed, when and where it was built, and other important details. With modern 17-digit VINs, car owners and used-car shoppers can access vehicle history reports and see open recalls on a vehicle. This helps them to make more informed decisions when purchasing a vehicle.

VINs also provide a way to trace a car from the factory to the junkyard. As the car passes through different stages of its life, bureaus such as CarFax record the information in databases. This information can then be accessed to investigate any accidents, insurance claims, or recalls that have been associated with the car in the past.

VIN identification and tracking also helps to ensure that a car is safe and reliable. By keeping track of recalls, registrations, warranty claims, and thefts, VINs help to ensure that cars remain up to date with the latest safety standards. Additionally, by keeping records of a vehicle’s history, VINs help buyers to make more informed decisions before purchasing a used car, ensuring that the car is safe and reliable.

Overall, VIN identification and tracking is a critical tool for vehicle identification and tracking. By providing a unique identifier for vehicles, VINs help to ensure that cars are safe and reliable, provide easy access to vehicle history reports, and provide a way to trace a car from the factory to the junkyard.

2. Provide vehicle history data

VINs (vehicle identification numbers) are used for many purposes throughout the life of a vehicle. VINs are essential for vehicle identification, allowing for legally binding actions such as registering a car, filing an insurance claim, and changing a title. VINs also play a big role when buying used vehicles. A VIN lookup can reveal basic information such as the make and model of a car, as well as its technical specifications. A full vehicle history report can also be obtained with a VIN number, which can reveal much more information including mileage history, damages, and historical photos. A VIN check or vehicle history report can help uncover any theft records, mileage rollbacks, damages, past and upcoming maintenance, previous sales, original specs and equipment, and any owner changes, MOTs, or other activity. It can also give buyers a checklist of things to look out for. VINs can also be used to detect any tampering, as VIN plates are usually attached using rivets, and any discrepancies can be a sign of fraud.

3. Check if vehicles are stolen

Using a VIN can help to check if a vehicle is stolen because a VIN check can reveal if the car has ever been stolen. If someone checks the VIN, it will show that it the car was stolen, unless the thieves have altered it in some way. However, car thieves can alter VINs by switching them or covering up the dashboard VIN. To combat this, VIN etching is a form of protection. VIN etching etches the VIN into the windshield and other windows of the car, which makes it much more difficult for thieves to cover up the VIN. For example, if a car is stolen, the police can just read the etched VIN off of the window, making it easier to identify the stolen car.

4. Verify if cars are insured

Step 1: Locate the VIN on your insurance card. The VIN can be found by looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The easiest way to view it is to stand outside the vehicle on the driver’s side and look at the corner of the dashboard where it meets the windshield. If the VIN cannot be found there, open the driver’s side door and look at the door post (where the door latches when it is closed).

Step 2: Run a free VIN check by entering the VIN into the VIN check box located below the order form. Once the free VIN check is complete, you will be able to view the year, make, model, style and country of assembly for the VIN.

Step 3: Purchase a vehicle history report. This will provide more detailed information about the vehicle, including the trim, the platform, the engine and transmission, and whether the car was all-wheel drive or two-wheel drive.

Step 4: Use the information in the vehicle history report to verify that the car is insured. Check the insurance company’s records to make sure that the VIN given on the report matches the VIN associated with the insurance policy. If they match, then the car is insured.

5. Check if vehicles are custom-built

Using VINs can help to check if vehicles are custom-built by decoding the proprietary codes that are embedded in the next 5 digits of the VIN. The check digit (the fourth number) and the model year (the eighth number) are two indicators of whether or not the car is custom-built. The fourth number is a check digit which is used to verify the rest of the VIN and the eighth number is the model year which can help to determine when the car was built. Additionally, the eleventh digit of the VIN usually designates what factory built the car, which can help to tell if the vehicle is custom-built. For vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000 lbs, the NHTSA also requires further proof of custom-built vehicles.

6. Provide uniformity in manufacturing

Providing uniformity in manufacturing using VINs benefits companies by giving them the ability to quickly and accurately identify the vehicles they produce. This uniformity allows for easier tracking of the manufacturing process and allows for easier recall of defective vehicles. Additionally, the standardized VIN format allows for easier comparison between vehicles from different manufacturers. With the standardized VIN format, companies can ensure that their production processes and vehicles meet industry standards, as well as providing legal protection against fraudulent sales.

7. Facilitate car-dealer transactions

VINs, or Vehicle Identification Numbers, are important to facilitate car-dealer transactions. The 17-digit VIN provides a unique code that includes everything from the make, model, and year of the vehicle, to the factory where it was made and the specific features it contains. This information is used by dealers to identify vehicles and access a wide range of information about them, including safety ratings and recalls.

Here are the steps to using a VIN for car-dealer transactions:

Get your VIN. You can find it on the driver’s side of the vehicle dashboard, usually near the windshield, as well as on the vehicle’s title and registration documents.

Use a VIN check tool. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers two free VIN check tools for decoding your VIN and checking for recalls.

Run an independent check. Online services such as Edmunds will provide an instant cash offer for your vehicle based on a VIN check.

Check the factory information. The 8th digit in the VIN indicates the factory where the car was made.

Check the features. The 10th through 17th digits of the VIN provide specific information about the make and model of the car, as well as the features it contains.

Check for safety ratings and recalls. Safety ratings and recalls can be accessed using the VIN. This information is important for the dealer to consider when making a purchase decision.

Using the VIN, car dealers can access an array of information about the vehicle and make an informed purchase decision.

8. Assess the value of vehicles

VINs can be used to assess the value of vehicles by providing detailed information about the vehicle including its model, trim level, engine size, body type, restraint type, transmission type, and safety equipment. Knowing this information can help determine the value of a vehicle, as it reveals how the car was built from the factory, if any modifications have been made, and if it has any safety features that can increase its value.

Step-by-step instructions for using VINs to assess the value of vehicles:

Obtain the VIN number of the vehicle you are assessing.

Use a free VIN Check tool, such as the one provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to decode the VIN and view its specs.

Research the vehicle’s market value and compare it to the specs of the VIN. This will reveal if the vehicle is valuable due to its specs, such as its model, trim level, engine size, body type, and safety features.

Consider any modifications or damages to the vehicle as this can reduce its value.

Example:

Let’s say you are assessing a 1998 Ford Mustang with a VIN of 1FAFP4041WF204981. By decoding the VIN number, you can find that it has a 3.8L V6 engine, an automatic 5-speed transmission, a 2-door body type, and includes driver and passenger airbags. After researching its market value, you determine that its value is $4,000 due to its specs and safety features. However, if you later find out that the vehicle has extensive mechanical damage, this will reduce its value significantly.

9. Enable uniformity in vehicle regulations

The use of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) enables uniformity in vehicle regulations by providing a standardized system for identifying and tracking vehicles in the United States and worldwide. By requiring that all vehicles have a VIN, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is able to easily trace the history and ownership of any given vehicle. This also helps to ensure that all vehicles comply with safety, emissions, and other regulations. Furthermore, the use of a universal VIN format since 1980 ensures that all vehicles are being held to the same standards, regardless of the make and model.

10. Provide safety data for vehicles

The use of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) is directly related to safety because they are used to identify a vehicle’s model year, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code. This information helps ensure that vehicles meet safety standards as established by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other regulatory bodies, such as the NHTSA and the International Organization for Standardization, which have developed standards such as FMVSS 115, Part 565 and ISO 3779:2009. VINs are also used to help prevent fraudulent VINs through the use of a check digit in the ninth position. Ultimately, the use of VINs helps to protect the safety of drivers and passengers alike.

 

What are the Different Formats of VINS Used Around the World?

1. European Vehicle Identification Number (EVIN)

An European Vehicle Identification Number (EVIN) is a unique 17-digit code used to identify a motor vehicle in Europe. It is similar to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) used in the United States, but with a few key differences. The EVIN is based on the ISO 3779 standard and contains information such as the model year, country of origin, and vehicle type. It can be used to track safety recalls and to obtain a vehicle history report.

EVINs are used around the world as a means of identifying and tracking vehicles. In Europe, every vehicle must have an EVIN in order to be registered. In the United States, EVINs are used for vehicles imported from Europe, as well as for certain types of vehicles that must be registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), such as motorhomes, trailers, and medium-duty trucks.

Additional countries where EVINs are used include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. As the usage of EVINs continues to expand, more countries are likely to adopt the system in the coming years.

2. International Motor Vehicle Identification Number (I-VIN)

The International Motor Vehicle Identification Number (I-VIN), also known as the global VIN, is the world’s standard for the identification of motor vehicles. It is an alphanumeric code consisting of 17 characters including digits and letters. The I-VIN is used by the automotive industry to identify manufacturing information and characteristics specific to each individual motor vehicle. It is used to ensure consistent and reliable record keeping and prevent fraud.

The I-VIN is used in many countries around the world. It provides a uniform system for identifying motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds, as defined by the International Organization for Standardization in ISO 3779 (content and structure) and ISO 4030 (location and attachment). It is used to obtain vehicle history reports, check for safety recalls, or identify stolen vehicles.

The I-VIN is also used in many countries to track registrations, warranty claims, insurance coverage and thefts. It has been standardized since 1981 and is currently used in over 80 countries. It has greatly improved the accuracy and efficiency of registering and tracking motor vehicles, as well as preventing fraud and protecting consumers’ interests.

3. Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC)

The Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) is a set of uniform laws governing the registration and licensing of motor vehicles. It was first adopted by the National Conference on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances in 1941 and is now adopted by all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The UVC provides guidelines for the registration and licensing of vehicles, including title and registration requirements, driver licensing provisions, operation of vehicles, and other related requirements.

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is an agreement between 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, and 10 Canadian provinces that provides for the pro-ration of commercial motor vehicle registration fees. IRP allows a carrier to register a commercial motor vehicle in one member jurisdiction and travel in all other jurisdictions without the need to re-register or pay additional registration fees. The IRP also allows for the enforcement of interstate registration laws and regulations.

The UVC and the IRP have some similarities, such as the adoption of uniform laws and regulations for motor vehicle registration. However, their primary focus is different, as the UVC provides more general guidelines for the registration and licensing of motor vehicles, while the IRP is specific to the pro-ration of registration fees for commercial vehicles.

4. World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)

A World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) is a three-character code used to identify a car’s manufacturer as well as its country of origin. The first character of the WMI typically indicates the region in which the manufacturer is based, but there are exceptions. The second character indicates the manufacturer and the region where the vehicle was produced, and the third character, when combined with the first two, indicates the type or division of the vehicle. The WMI is assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in the US and is used to identify vehicles around the world. In Europe, the country of the continental headquarters typically assigns the WMI to all vehicles produced in the region. For example, all Opel/Vauxhall cars produced in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, or Poland carry a WMI of W0L because Adam Opel AG is based in Rüsselsheim, Germany.

5. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting and enhancing the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses and products by setting uniform standards for product safety and quality, as well as for the establishment of product or service specifications. One of the standards developed by ANSI is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) standard, which is used to accurately identify vehicles for tracking purposes and for identification of their origin and history. The VIN standard requires the use of 17 characters that are a combination of numbers and letters. The characters in each position of the VIN represent different information about the vehicle, such as the manufacturer, production year, and vehicle model. To ensure accuracy of the VIN, ANSI uses a check digit in the ninth position. By adhering to the ANSI VIN standard, vehicles can be accurately identified and tracked, ensuring a safe and reliable transportation system.

6. Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) VIN format is a globally recognized alphanumeric code used to identify vehicles. It is a 17-digit code that is composed of a combination of numbers and letters that can be used to identify the manufacturer, make, model, type, and year of the vehicle. The VIN is used to uniquely identify vehicles around the world, and the SAE VIN format is the most widely used. The SAE VIN format is based on a three part system, which includes the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS) and the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The WMI identifies the country of manufacture, the make and model of the vehicle, and is typically composed of three characters. The VDS identifies the attributes of the vehicle, such as body style, engine size, and transmission type, and is composed of six characters. The VIS is composed of eight characters and is used to identify the specific vehicle, such as its year of manufacture and factory of assembly. Examples of WMI codes include: 1N4AL21E78C141235 (Nissan), 1G1JC5240V7257189 (Chevrolet), and WB

7. Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA)

The Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) is a global organization that represents car manufacturers in international forums. It works to promote the interests of its members and to protect the industry through regulations and standards. The AMA provides two primary formats of membership: Corporate and Associate. Corporate membership is for automotive manufacturers and suppliers, including original equipment manufacturers, parts suppliers, and technology suppliers. Associate membership is for regional and international entities that are not directly involved in the automotive industry, such as stakeholders, governments, and other organizations. Through its different membership formats, the AMA seeks to foster collaboration and promote the growth of the industry.

8. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a Vehicle Information Report (VIR) as a document that details the make, model, year, and other information about a vehicle such as its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It also includes any recalls, crash test ratings, and other safety information associated with the vehicle. The NHTSA requires all vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 lbs. or less (passenger and light-duty vehicles) to follow a certain VIN standard, which leverages position 7 in conjunction with the year code in position 10 to determine the model year the vehicle was manufactured between 1980-2009 or 2010-2039. For medium and heavy-duty vehicles, which do not have the same requirement, it is impossible to determine the model year by VIN alone. Additionally, the NHTSA website offers two free VIN check tools that allow you to decode your VIN or check for a recall.

9. Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan (JAMA)

The Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan (JAMA) is an organization that assigns World Manufacturer Identifiers (WMIs) to countries and manufacturers. WMIs are unique codes that are used to identify a vehicle’s manufacturer and country of origin. The WMI helps ensure that every vehicle has a unique identification number, which can be used to track recalls, recalls, and other safety-related information.

JAMA’s WMI system is distinct from other VIN systems in that it assigns a unique code to each manufacturer and country. For example, Japan is assigned the J81 WMI code for Chevrolet/Geo vehicles made by Isuzu, and J87 for Pontiac/Asüna vehicles made by Isuzu for GM Canada. Other countries, such as South Korea, are assigned unique codes such as KLA for Daewoo/GM Korea vehicles. This allows for easy identification of a vehicle’s manufacturer and country of origin.

In addition to assigning unique codes, JAMA also provides detailed information about each WMI code, such as the vehicle’s make, model, and year of manufacture. This information is used by governments and motor vehicle agencies to ensure that vehicles meet safety requirements and are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

10. Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA)

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) VIN format is a standardized system for identifying vehicles from different manufacturers. It is important because it makes it easier for vehicle registration, maintenance, and insurance companies to track vehicles. It also helps to prevent fraud and theft. The JAMA VIN format consists of 17 characters that identify a vehicle’s make, model, year, engine type and other unique characteristics. The first three characters identify the vehicle’s make and model, the next five characters identify the vehicle’s serial number, the next three identify the year, the next two identify the engine type, and the last three identify the country of manufacture and assembly. By having a standardized system, it makes it easier for companies and individuals to quickly identify a vehicle’s manufacturer, model, and year.

 

Which is the Best Format for VINs?

1. World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI): This is the most comprehensive Vin format and contains the most information about the vehicle.

The most comprehensive VIN format is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) standard, which is used in the United States and Canada. This standard consists of 17 characters and includes information such as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS) and the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The WMI consists of the first three digits of the VIN and identifies the country of origin or the final point of assembly for the vehicle. The second digit indicates the manufacturer and the region where the vehicle was produced. The third digit, when coupled with the first two digits, indicates the type or manufacturing division of the vehicle. The VDS, in positions 4-9 of the VIN, identify the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code of the vehicle. Finally, the VIS, in positions 10–17, identifies the model year, plant code, sequential serial number, and check digit. This standard is able to store a variety of information about a vehicle and is used world-wide.

2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): This format contains the most important safety information about the vehicle, such as airbags, seatbelts, and anti-lock brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) format for vehicles includes information such as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) in positions 1-3, the vehicle descriptor section (VDS) in positions 4-9, the model type, restraint types, body type, engine, and transmission information, the manufacturing plant, the country of manufacture, and the model year in the 10th character of the VIN. The NHTSA also offers two free VIN check tools that allow you to either decode your VIN or check for a recall.

3. Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE): This format contains information about the engine and chassis of the vehicle.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) assigns a World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) to countries and manufacturers in their format for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). The fourth to ninth positions in the VIN are the vehicle descriptor section (VDS), which is used to identify the vehicle type and includes information on the automobile platform, model, and body style. The ninth position is a check digit, used to detect fraudulent VINs and based on a mathematical formula developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The VIN format is based on two related standards issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1979 and 1980: ISO 3779 and ISO 3780, respectively. This format is compatible but different from implementations adopted by the European Union and the United States.

4. Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC): This format contains information about the body of the vehicle.

The information included in the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) format for vehicles includes the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS), Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS), model type, restraint types, body type, engine, transmission, check digit, and vehicle platform. It also includes provisions such as 18 U.S.C §§ 511, 512, and 2321 which make the parts marking standard mandatory for passenger cars starting with model year 1987. The UVC also includes standards for calculating the VIN, such as FMVSS 115, Part 565 used in United States and Canada, ISO 3779 used in Europe, SAE J853, and ADR 61/2 used in Australia.

5. J1111 EEE: This format contains information about the model year of the vehicle.

The J1111 EEE VIN format includes vehicle descriptor section information, such as model type, restraint types, body type, engine, and transmission, as well as the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The tenth digit in this format indicates the model year of the vehicle, while the eleventh digit indicates which manufacturing plant the vehicle was assembled at. The last seven digits, from the twelfth through seventeenth positions, are the unique production serial number of the vehicle. The model year is encoded by some manufacturers as “A” for 1980 and increments through the allowed letters, with “Y” representing the year 2000. 2001 to 2009 are encoded as the digits 1 to 9, and subsequent years are encoded as “A”, “B”, “C”, etc.

6. Production plant code: This format contains information about the assembly plant where the vehicle was built.

The production plant code for a vehicle is an 11th digit in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that identifies the assembly plant at which the vehicle was built. Each vehicle manufacturer has its own set of plant codes that are used to identify where the car, truck, or SUV was manufactured. This is an important piece of information that is used in the vehicle’s registration and recall processes. The production plant code is part of the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS) of the VIN, which also includes information such as the model type, restraint types, body type, engine, and transmission.

7. Model year: This format contains information about how long the vehicle has been in production.

The best format for model year information for VINs is a 10th digit that encodes the model year of the vehicle. This digit is required worldwide to encode model year. The year 1980 was encoded by some manufacturers as “A”, yet Ford and AMC still used a zero for 1980. Subsequent years increment through the allowed letters, so that “Y” represents the year 2000. 2001 to 2009 are encoded as the digits 1 to 9, and subsequent years are encoded as “A”, “B”, “C”, etc. For passenger cars, and for multipurpose passenger vehicles and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) or less, if position seven is numeric, the model year in position 10 of the VIN refers to a year in the range 1980-2009. If position seven is alphabetic, the model year in position 10 of the VIN refers to a year in the range 2010-2039. This format is recommended by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as part of the VIN regulations applicable to all motor vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States.

8. Manufacturer identifier: This format contains information about the car manufacturer.

The manufacturer identifier format for Vins contains information about the country of origin, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and the type of vehicle. The first three digits of the VIN identify the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), which is the country of origin. The second element in the WMI indicates the manufacturer and the third element indicates the vehicle type or manufacturing division. The fourth through eighth digits provide information about the vehicle, such as the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type and engine code. The ninth digit is the check digit, which is used to detect invalid VINs. The tenth letter or number indicates the model year, and the eleventh digit is the manufacturer’s plant code. Finally, the last six digits are the production sequence numbers.

9. Check Digit: This format consists of a single digit added to the end of the Vin to ensure accuracy.

The check digit format helps to ensure the accuracy of VINs by providing a coded mathematical equation that adds up, multiplies, and divides all the digits in the VIN according to a coded chart. This helps to detect fraudulent VINs, as the check digit is compared with the calculated value. If the two values do not match, then there is a mistake in the VIN. The weight factor for each position in the VIN also helps to verify authenticity, as the ninth position, which is the check digit, has a weight of zero to cancel it out in the multiplication step.

10. Tracing Element Code: This format contains information about how the vehicle was manufactured.

The tracing element code for a vehicle contains information about the vehicle’s make, year, model, plant code and serial number. The first three digits of the VIN indicate the make of the vehicle, while the tenth digit indicates the year the vehicle was built. The eleventh digit is the manufacturer’s plant code, indicating which plant manufactured the vehicle. The 12th through 17th digits are the vehicle’s unique serial number. This information is used to identify and track vehicles throughout their lifespan.