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How To Decode VIN Number

The VIN Decoding System

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) system was put into place in 1981 by the U.S. Government in order to track and identify individual vehicles. Every car manufactured for sale in the United States was required to have a unique 17-digit number. This number allows police and other officials to distinguish between similar vehicles for law enforcement and bureaucratic purposes. For example, when a car is stolen, police include the VIN in their police reports so that it is not confused with a similar car with the same make, model and color.

It also offers a level of protection for used car buyers, who can decode information about the vehicle by looking at the combination of numbers and letters. For example, they can figure out if a given car was really made in 1987, or actually manufactured in 1986 and simply being passed off as a later model.

What Vehicles Are Covered By The VIN Decoding System?

The current VIN decoding system went into place in 1981 and applies to:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Buses
  • Motorcycles
  • Vans
  • SUVs

It does not apply to bicycles or other alternate forms of vehicles.

Automatic vs. Manual Decoding

At first it was fairly easy for the average person to decode the information revealed by a particular VIN number. However, since 1981 things have changed quite a bit. Dozens of new models have been introduced. Brands and divisions have been bought, sold, and spun off to other companies. The number of new options alone has increased VINs by the hundreds.

This means that it is no longer a simple thing for the average person to look at a VIN number and decode the data it is meant to reveal.

But this could take you hours to do. Instead, you can use us to do an electronic decoding of the VIN for you. If you simply enter the VIN number of the vehicle in our search field, our system will decode it for you and provide you with a vehicle history report. This will take just a couple of minutes, and be much easier than trying to do the decoding on your own.

Information Revealed By VIN Decoding

There is a wealth of information that is included in the VIN once it is decoded. This may include:

  • The country where it was manufactured
  • The company that built the car
  • The make of the vehicle
  • The vehicle model
  • The year it was built
  • The type of engine
  • The restraint and safety systems installed
  • The type of transmission
  • The specific plant that built the vehicle

The VIN also includes a unique serial number of the vehicle. This is what police use to track down stolen cars. It is also what VehicleHistory.com uses to create your personal vehicle history report when you are considering buying a used vehicle.

Where To Find The VIN Number You Want To Decode

The government wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to see and record a vehicle's VIN number. That's why it is located several places on the vehicle.

You should be able to see it on the dashboard (usually near the steering wheel), on the driver's side door, and on the engine block. It is also often stamped in another secret location that varies from vehicle to vehicle.

Beyond that, you should be able to find the VIN on most paperwork associated with the vehicle including the title, registration and insurance papers.

Why People Want To Decode VIN Numbers

The primary reason people want to decode the VIN number for a vehicle these days is to avoid getting ripped off when buying a used car. Because the VIN is recorded by officials for various reasons, decoding a VIN number of a used vehicle can let people know:

  • If the vehicle has been in a major accident
  • How many people have owned the vehicle over time
  • If it has been part of a taxi service or fleet
  • If it has been reported stolen
  • The approximate mileage
  • General service records
  • What the vehicle itself is roughly worth

This gives used car buyers a leg up in the use vehicle purchasing process and protects them from used car crooks.

Can VIN Numbers Be Faked?

Yes they can – and this is one of the main reasons why you may want to have our service decode a VIN for you before you buy a used car. Technology, including 3D printers, is available that allows crooks to print out very realistic-looking VIN plates and install them on a problem vehicle.

But you can protect yourself from this practice. A VIN number check should reveal if a VIN is likely faked. You'll notice inconsistencies in your vehicle history report after we decode it for you that will act as glaring red flags.

Is It Legal To Decode A VIN Number?

Absolutely! VIN numbers were created to help officials and the public. All of the information contained in the VIN is a matter of public record. You have the total right to decode the VIN of any vehicle you are thinking of purchasing.

It is a very simple process.

  • Enter the VIN number into our search engine
  • Wait while the VIN is decoded
  • Read the decoding report on your laptop or mobile device

You can look at the links on our site to learn more about the vehicle decoding process, including how to do a basic decode that will help you verify the brand of car associated with the VIN.

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