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What is VIN

Every car and light truck model year 1981 or later has a unique 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A VIN has many important uses, including unlocking important information about a vehicle's history.

VINs also have many other important uses. For example, service shops use VINs to identify the engine, transmission and brake systems installed by manufacturers so that they can properly service vehicles. Law enforcement agencies use VINs to identify and recover stolen cars and car parts. Auto manufacturers use VINs when they resolve safety recalls.

Where can I find the VIN?

The VIN is located in a number of places on a car, but most commonly on the dashboard (you can see it through the windshield) and the driver's side door jamb sticker. On some vehicles the VIN is also placed on the engine, hood, and other parts. The VIN may also appear on car titles, insurance policies, service records and police reports for the vehicle.

What if the VIN is not 17 characters long?

If you believe that your VIN is not 17 characters long, the first thing to do is double-check to make sure that you have the right VIN and have copied it down correctly. Once you have verified that the VIN is definitely less than 17 characters, the VIN is most likely from a pre-1981 vehicle.
Prior to 1981, VINs varied in length from 11 to 17 characters. AutoCheck can only report on vehicles that use a 17 character VIN. Therefore, information on vehicles manufactured before 1981 is limited.

Vehicle History Information From VINs

Characters within a VIN indicate a vehicle's year, make, model, where it was manufactured, and more. VIN Decoding is the process of deciphering these details.

The VIN is also used to access the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Every CARFAX Report contains important information that can impact your decision about a used vehicle.

Using VINs in the Car Buying Process

There are many things a seller may not disclose to you, such as a salvage title, flood damage or an odometer rollback. Any of these and other issues can affect the safety, performance and even value of a used car.

To make it more difficult for you to learn a vehicle's history, crooked sellers may list the wrong VIN in an online vehicle posting or may not be willing to provide the VIN at all. Scam artists may also alter the vehicle's title documents to hide potential problems.

Use these tips to protect yourself from fraud as you shop for a used car:
  • Get the VIN from the seller or off of the vehicle itself. If the seller refuses to disclose the VIN, that could be a sign that they do not want you to learn the car's history.
  • Get the vehicle's history. Ask the seller for a Vehicle History Report. If the seller does not provide it, use the VIN to purchase a Report.
  • Confirm the vehicle's identity. Physically match the VIN provided by the seller to the VINs on the vehicle, the vehicle's title documents, and the History Report. If any of the VINs do not match, you may want to walk away from the deal.
  • After you buy a car, you will need the VIN to insure the car and to register it at your local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Tip: When registering the car, make sure to report the correct VIN and an accurate odometer reading. This information is recorded by the DMV and may appear on the History Report of your vehicle.

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