Check your VIN for free with us
Every car, motorcycle, or towed vehicle – new or old – has a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This 17-digit alphanumeric code is the savior of anyone buying a used car, or searching for parts for the one they own. By performing a VIN check you can look up important information about the vehicle, including:
- The vehicle’s date and country of manufacture
- Specifications, such as the engine, transmission, body type, and more
Even more importantly, entering your code into a VIN decoder may tell you the vehicle’s history, including whether it was stolen or in a serious accident. Getting this information before investing in a vehicle can save you a lot of money and worries.
So, before putting cash on the table, try our free VIN decoder and give yourself some peace of mind!
How to check the VIN number
Performing a VIN lookup is very easy:
- Locate your VIN code (check the above instructions for help finding it)
- Enter the number into our free VIN decoder above
- Click “Search”
That’s all there is to it!
Vehicle Identification Number structure
The VIN is a combination of 3 codes:
- World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)
Digits 1 to 3 of a VIN code are known as the WMI. The first digit tells you the country where the vehicle was built, whereas the next two digits denominate the manufacturer (e.g. BMW, Toyota, etc.)
- Vehicle Descriptor section (VDS)
Digits 4 to 9 are the VDS. Although each manufacturer has their own way of encoding information in the VDS, some things remain the same. Firstly, this part of the VIN always gives you the vehicle specifications. Secondly, the 8th digit is usually reserved for the engine type.
By interpreting the 6 digits of the VDS, you can learn about the automobile platform, model, body type, and more.
- Vehicle Identification Section (VIS)
Digits 10 to 17 are the VIS. The manufacturer uses this part of the VIN to uniquely identify the vehicle. Although the VIS may contain information about the car (such as the transmission choice), it is usually a simple number.
Where to find the VIN?
The VIN is usually displayed on the vehicle itself, as well as on related documents. The VIN location on the vehicle depends on its type and manufacturer.
Here are the most likely places to look for the VIN of a car:
- On a metal plate on the dashboard. Look behind the windshield on the driver’s side from outside the vehicle
- On the driver’s side door. Look on the door frame, around the area where the door latches to the body
- Beneath the hood. The VIN may be displayed on the engine block or other valuable car parts
On a motorcycle, the VIN normally appears on the steering neck (headstock tube). Alternatively, it may be on the motor, usually near the lower part of the cylinder.
Whether you’re looking for the VIN of a car or a motorcycle, you will probably also find it on the car title or insurance certificate.
Why is the VIN number important?
The VIN number is every vehicle’s fingerprint. It helps manufacturers, government institutions, car dealerships, insurance agents, repair shops, and private individuals identify a particular vehicle. As such, it is extremely important for a number of reasons:
- Allowing buyers to look up important vehicle details before purchasing. VIN checks are great for ensuring a salesman or used car ad is telling the truth
- Various institutions use the VIN to log information about the vehicle
- The VIN helps law enforcement agencies solve cases involving stolen vehicles
- Manufacturers use the VIN to handle factory recalls, warranties, and provide information about vehicles
- Repair shops and mechanics rely on the VIN to find the right car parts
The list of situations where a VIN is useful has no end. Always remember you have this resource at your disposal!
What is a car history report?
Every car has a history. For some, it can be quite long and colorful! If you have the VIN code of a vehicle, chances are you can look at that history by getting a car history report. And if you’re buying a used car, that “can” quickly turns into a “should.”
As we’ve established, the VIN is invaluable for recordkeeping. In official documents, it is a lot more useful than license plate numbers (which often change) or simple descriptions (which don’t help when you have a specific vehicle in mind). And information about vehicles appears in the databases of various institutions – law enforcement and other government agencies, insurance agents, car dealerships, repair shops, and much more.
Having access to the databases of all these institutions makes the VIN decoder a powerful tool. You can use it to get a detailed car history report, including all the spicy details.
The information in a digital history check may include:
- Ownership history – where and how many times has the vehicle been registered
- Accidents – serious accidents can significantly reduce the price of a car
- Theft records – are you about to purchase a stolen vehicle?
- Sales history – check how much the vehicle was previously sold for
- Maintenance records – has the vehicle been receiving timely repairs?
- Open recalls – a history check may reveal outstanding recalls for known issues
- Historical photographs of the vehicle
- Title brand information – learn if the vehicle has a title brand, such as:
- Lemon (vehicle with recurring mechanical problems)
- Rebuilt (salvage, has undergone expensive repairs after an accident)
- Irreparable (junk, to be used only for spare parts)
- Water damage (suffered water damage due to flooding, hurricanes, etc.)
- Odometer rollback (vehicle’s mileage has been mechanically altered)
These are just some of the things you can learn from a car history check. However, keep in mind that the information may differ depending on various factors, e.g., your country, state, etc.
Finally, note that a VIN lookup is not a substitute for your mechanic! If you’re buying a used vehicle, make sure to take it for a check-up.