What a VIN Number Can Tell You
The Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, is a little bit like a Social Security number for a car. The number can be used to learn all about the vehicle’s features and even where it was manufactured.
Understanding what a VIN really means, and what it can tell you, isn’t something every potential car buyer knows about. If you want to be a savvy shopper, use this guide to learn more about the VIN system and how it can help you in your search for the ideal vehicle.
Where is the VIN?
Before you can really do anything with the VIN, or use it to get more information about the car, you need to learn how to locate it on any vehicle. Luckily, finding the VIN is easy since it’s always in a standard location.
Start by looking on the driver’s side dash beneath the front of the windshield. You should see what looks like a small metal plate with a long code imprinted on it. That’s the VIN. It is a combination of 17 letters and numbers that are unique to each vehicle.
The First Three Symbols
The first three symbols of the VIN tell you where the car is from and who made it. Each country has a corresponding code that details this information, and manufacturers are identified by their own codes as well.
As an example, a Mercedes-Benz from Germany would have the characters “WMB” as the first part of the VIN.
Characters four through eight of the VIN tell you about the features of your vehicle. From your engine size to transmission type, online VIN number searches can help you make sure you’re getting what the dealer says is under the hood.
Pay Attention to Number Nine
The ninth character in the VIN sequence is designed to be a check to help you confirm the VIN number is not fraudulent. Use online checkers to confirm the digits correspond to the make and model.
Breaking Down Make and Model
The remaining digits of your VIN – characters 10 through 17 – have meaning as well. The model year and specific production plant are identified with the tenth and eleventh characters. The rest of the digits correspond to a unique serial number for the vehicle assigned by the manufacturer.
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