Everything You Need to Know About Your VIN

Every person has a unique fingerprint. The same can be said of cars, except instead of a fingerprint, they have a VIN number. Our cars VIN stands for our vehicle’s identification number, or rather, the unique string of digits that are used to identify your car. What exactly can this “fingerprint” tell you?

Below, we break out how you can find your VIN, what it can tell you, and how to read it properly.

VIN number

Locating your VIN number

In order to decode your VIN, you’ll need to locate it and make sure it has the right number of digits. If you need help, you can find it in three different places:

  • Windshield – Your VIN can be found on your windshield in the lower left corner of the driver’s side.
  • Car door – Another easy place to look is on the door of the driver’s side. Look at the panel that lists maintenance information by the step up into the car. You’ll find your VIN listed here, too!
  • Proof of Insurance – Can’t check your car right now? Check your Proof of Insurance where it is legally required to be listed.

What can your VIN number tell you?

Your VIN is a tool you can use to learn about your specific car. For example, you can use it to find out if a part has been recalled on the make and model of your car, or to review the specifications of your vehicle. Some of those features include:

  • Where it was made – is your car from US or was it put together in another country?
  • Engine size – this will tell you the volume of the pistons inside your engine, essentially how powerful it is.

When you decode your VIN, you can gather all kinds of useful information about your vehicle that you may not be able to remember off the top of your head.

How to read a VIN number

Each set of digits in this number tells you something different about your car. Understanding your VIN may prove useful when buying or selling a car, shopping for a new car insurance policy, or anywhere else someone will ask you for details about your ride. Your VIN will help you remember your car’s features if you don’t have the owner’s manual or immediate access to the car itself. You can break up your 17-digit VIN into three parts; world manufacturer identifier, vehicle description, and vehicle identifier.

World manufacturer identifier

The initial three numbers and letters tell you what kind of car you have. That first digit lets you know the country your car was made in, while the second tells you the manufacturer. The last digit in the sequence tells you the car’s type.

Let’s look at an example:

5N1

Say these are the first three digits in your VIN. The five signifies that your car was made in the United States. Cars manufactured here begin with one, four, or five. The “N” stands for Nissan and the last one tells you the manufacturing division was the US. The full list of World Manufacturer Identifier codes can be found online and will help you figure out your VIN’s meaning.

Vehicle description

The following five digits in your VIN (digits four through eight) tell you about your car’s physical description. These include:

  • Model – The brand of your car.
  • Restraints – The components that make up the safety features of your car. (i.e. airbags, seatbelts, etc.)
  • Transmission – The type of transmission system your car has.
  • Engine code – The specific mechanics that make up your car.
  • Body – Your car’s ‘body’ type. (i.e. sedan, SUV, mini-sedan, etc.)

The ninth digit in your VIN stands alone to check for invalid VINs. If you visit a site to look up a VIN and discover it doesn’t work, it’s probably an invalid number. There are several reasons this could happen;  One of the most common reasons for this is because cars made before the 1980s did not have the standard 17 numbers. However, usually, cars in operation will have all 17 digits – this is likely the case with your vehicle!

Another reason could be the service you are trying to use simply does not provide coverage to your vehicle type. If you are certain your car should be covered and still have difficulty, it may be due to user error. Double-check to make sure you have the correct number of digits, 17, in the VIN you are examining.

Vehicle identifier

The last eight numbers delve into even deeper details about your car, such as:

  • Digit 10 tells you the model year.
  • Digit 11 shows the manufacturing facility your car was put together in.
  • Digits 12-17 account for production sequence and is assigned on the assembly line.

Even though a VIN looks like a simple string of numbers at first glance, it’s complex! Should you need additional help decoding its secrets, you may want to consult a VIN lookup tool. Tools like this provide a shortcut for you, but it’s useful to understand how to read your VIN in a pinch!