All you Wanted to Know About Vehicle Identification Numbers

While buying an old car can help you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars, bringing a used car home with a duplicitous past can open a pandora’s box of troubles. You may have come across several horror stories of used car buyers, who were deceived into buying a stolen car or a vehicle with a lien or disputed title. To help car buyers avoid used car selling scams, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1981 mandated that every vehicle produced in the year and after must have a VIN number. Running a VIN check can take the mystery out of a used car’s history, helping you make informed purchase decisions. In this post, we discuss VIN in detail. Keep reading.

VIN: Introduction

Every vehicle produced in and after 1981 is provided a unique identity known as Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. VIN is a combination 17 alphanumeric characters. Every alphabet and number reveals some important info about the car. The first three characters, for instance, identify the manufacturer. Similarly, the 10th digit can be used to learn the model year. You can use your vehicle’s VIN to get a vehicle history report that can alert you against potential frauds and reveal important info related to ownership history, service history, and recall history.

Locating VIN

For most cars and trucks, the VIN is located on the driver’s side dashboard and on the side door. You can also find your car’s VIN on important documents such as the title papers, registration card, insurance documents, and owner’s manual.

Sources of VIN data

VIN reports source data from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System’s records. The body has ties with several insurance carriers, junkyards, and salvage yards, and updates its records periodically to ensure buyers get the latest data. In addition to using the NMVTIS’ records, many providers also source data from police records, vehicle auctions, and local auctions.

Finding VIN for an old car

Learning the past life of an old car whose VIN plates and stickers are missing can take some doing. You can locate the VIN on old registration, insurance company records, repair records, and police reports. You can also post a search history (a short description of the vehicle) on social media, car enthusiast forums, and national car club websites.


When buying a used car, remember to run a VIN check. Get a vehicle history report from a reputable provider. Vehicle history reports do not cost much, and in many cases you can even get one free of cost. If you have any problems locating the VIN, consult your mechanic.