If you've registered a new car, sold an old car, or purchased insurance for any kind of vehicle at all, at some point or another, you've had to supply the VIN - that's Vehicle Identification Number. You probably already know that your VIN is a unique 17-character combination of numbers and letters that serves to identify your specific vehicle, but did you know that there's more to it than that? VINs aren't just random letters and numbers - each part of the VIN actually means something.
Where is It?
Before you can decrypt the hidden messages in your VIN, you need to know where to find it. If your car is a fairly recent model, the VIN is most likely on the driver's-side door or post, on a plate near the window on the left side of the dashboard, or on your vehicle's firewall.
For older vehicles, common locations include those three areas as well as the inner wheel arch on the left-hand side of the car, the steering column, a machined pad on the front of the engine, or on the radiator support bracket. Most of the time, your VIN is also printed on the documents that came with your vehicle, or inside the owner's manual.
Decrypting the VIN Code
Once you decrypt your VIN, it will tell you the year and country of your vehicle's manufacture, the make, model and serial number of the vehicle, and which assembly plant it came from. In some cases, even specific equipment specifications (like common trim levels) are also designated. All that information is compiled in a collection of letters (from A to Z, but usually omitting I, O, and Q), and numbers (from 1 to 9 with 0 (zero) coming last), that is divided into four sections:
Let's break down each section, in order:
Knowing all this won't save you money on insurance, or make you a better driver, but it will help you to understand why VINs are so important when it comes to verifying ownership, tracking accident statistics across specific makes and models of cars, and even finding stolen cars and trucks or protecting them from theft.