What Can Your VIN Plate Tell You About Your Vehicle?

VINs are unique to every car and that’s why they are as essential as the SSN or your fingerprint.  A VIN helps in tracking more information about the car which is usually hidden all through. 

You need to know what that VIN plate can tell you but we first need to locate the alphanumeric code on your car. After that, you can use the help of reliable lookup websites to interpret the information. 

Since that seems like everything you need to do to know more about your car, are there any highlights? W will shed light on the VIN and a general view of what each character means. There are also history reports to peruse for those dealing with used cars. 

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The VIN Overview 

Most people call it the VIN number although the N in the acronym signifies the numeric niche. Before it was introduced, people found it difficult to distinguish between two cars of the same color and model. That’s when the manufacturers came up with their own numbering system. 

Since there are many car manufacturers, people realized the need for standardization. That’s when the 17-digit serial system was introduced in 1981. If you have a car with less than the needed number of characters, it means that it was made before the standards came in or it’s a fake one. 

Where Is the VIN?

Before you find a VIN lookup site to help you decode, let’s see where you can locate that VIN. In most cases, you will find it on the driver’s side of the dashboard and it’s viewable while outside the windscreen. 

Other places to get it include: 

  • On the engine block 
  • Under the hood 
  • On the driver’s door pillar
  • Under the spare tire 

For comparison purposes, you need more sources. Recent models include the VIN on the electronic and transmission systems due to security reasons. The documents that hold the number include the title registration, insurance cards, and the logbook. 

You need to note that even RVs, boat trailers and motorcycles have the VINs too. RVs have it just like the other vehicles while boat trailers will have it on hitch side. On motorcycles, you can find it near the handles either on the left or right. 

In other models, it can be on the frame near the sticker containing the bike’s information.

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Deciphering the VIN for More Information 

Every character on the VIN has something to tell you. It’s specific to the car and that is why you need the help of VIN lookup platforms. Otherwise, it will take you hours if not days if you decide to do it manually or visit the local DMV or NHTSA office. 


That does not mean there is something you can’t grasp. Having information about what the characters mean will give you an idea of what to expect. Let’s break down the characters to see what they should contain:

  • 1st Digit: It explains where the car was made and it will refer to the geographical area. It can be a number or an alphabet. For example, cars from Germany will have a W while those from South America will have an 8 or 9. You can get more numbers from one country depending on the size the number of manufacturing plants available. 
  • 2nd and 3rd Digits: These ones will tell you about the manufacturer’s name and the division respectively. We can give an example of BMWs made in Germany or the US. In the prior country, you will get WBA as the first three characters. In the US, you will see 4US. 
  • 4th to 8th Digits: The car’s specifications lie in these characters. You will see the engine type, size, model and safety. Where each of that and more lies depends on the manufacturer. You may get the 8th character telling you about the fuel system in one car while in another model, it will explain the safety information. 
  • 9th Digit: This is the check character. It will tell you if the VIN is legit or not based on a complex mathematical formula. There are steps to follow and that is why you need to ensure that your VIN is correct before feeding it to a decoding platform. Also, due to the complex steps involved in verification, that’s why you need a decoder. 
  • 10th Digit: This is where you get to know about the model’s year. Any car built between 1981 and 2000 will have a letter here. Between 2001 and 2009, you will get a number. Since 2010 to date, the letters are in use and the trend will continue until 2030. In 2021, the models will have an M. 
  • 11th Digit: This is the plant character. Every factory or assembling plant has a unique tag and that’s how you get to know the precise plant. 
  • 12th to 17th Digits: These characters represent the car’s serial number.  

Read Also: How to Install Gps Tracker in Motorcycle – Detailed Guide

What Else Will a VIN Plate Tell? 

Apart from what’s in the characters, you can learn more about the car’s history. For new vehicles, there may be nothing much to show. In used ones, it’s very essential to get the history especially if you are buying from a car dealership or an individual. 

So, apart from the car’s specifications, you can uncover the following: 

  • The accidents report 
  • Impaired driving occurrences 
  • Crime involvement or theft 
  • Past ownership history 
  • Lien and repossession 
  • Etc. 

What you get there depends on the car and how it was in use before the resale. For the characters, having an idea of what they mean helps in better interpretation. 


The VINs are still evolving since manufacturers are adding more information in the characters. That’s why it’s easy to know the particular model you are driving among other things. 

As you have seen, the Vin is essential since it will reveal even what the seller is not telling you. Proceed to find the plate and compare what you have seen with other VIN sources. Once you find that it’s matching, proceed to a reputable website to help you decode. 

It’s also a good idea to involve more lookup platforms for clarity and verifying the information. 

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