A VIN decoder is used by vehicle owners to decipher the unique 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) that each car carries from the moment it is manufactured. These numbers are specifically generated for each car and no two vehicles in operation will ever have matching numbers. Your vehicle’s unique identification number is tied to numerous vehicle services and is frequently used to track its recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts and insurance coverage. When you go to register or buy insurance for an automobile, you will likely be required to provide that vehicle’s VIN number.

A VIN number decoder is an easy tool that can help in deciphering your distinctive 17-digit number. Most companies use the same numbering method, so a GM VIN decoder should not be different from any other company. While it won’t offer you a report on previous owners of a vehicle, a decoder can still provide you with essential information.

What is a VIN number?

VIN numbers are a combination of letters and digits that provide highly specific information about a vehicle. That information that can be accessed through a VIN lookup. Buyers looking for used cars will commonly request a VIN number lookup to review a vehicle’s history. This vehicle report will include information such as how many owners the car has had, the date of its last inspection, if it ever received “lemon” classification or if it was in a major accident. Using this information, buyers can make more informed decisions about purchasing used vehicles.

When you go to register your vehicle with your local DMV, you will be asked for your vehicle’s specific vehicle identification number. Since a car’s registration must match the VIN number, thieves will find it far more difficult to resell a vehicle with a VIN that was reported stolen. The “stolen” classification will always appear on a VIN lookup, so it is essential to check a used vehicle’s report before buying.

Where do I find my vehicle’s VIN number?

Anyone looking to decode a VIN number will first have to locate it on their vehicle. VIN numbers are located on the driver’s side door of most vehicles or you can check on your insurance card, vehicle title or registration. Some automobiles also have their VIN numbers etched onto their windshields as an additional deterrent against vehicle theft because thieves have difficulty concealing them from the police.

How can I decode this VIN number?

Although the arrangement of numbers and letters may seem random, when you decode a VIN number you will find that each character has a unique meaning. A breakdown of each segment of a VIN number will be described below.

1st Character: Vehicle’s Origin

The first character you come across when you decode a VIN number is used to show the country where a vehicle was manufactured. This character corresponds to a commonly used world manufacturer identifier index to pinpoint where in the world a vehicle was made. 1, 4 and 5 are usually used to describe vehicles made in the U.S. while J represents vehicles made in Japan.

2nd and 3rd Characters: Vehicle’s Make

Typically, these characters in a VIN number are used to describe the vehicle’s manufacturer. These characters reveal usually reveal the company by abbreviation. For example, AU would be the abbreviation for Audi and H would apply to Honda. A VIN number decoder might be necessary to figure out which of the numerous manufacturers each combination represents.

4th and 8th Characters: Vehicle Features

Usually, a VIN decoder is required to interpret this portion of a VIN. The next four characters denote the vehicle’s brand, engine size and type. Information such as a car’s safety features, transmission, body and engine type will be described in this section. Mechanics often use these four digits when they are servicing your automobile.

9th Character: Authorization of your VIN Number

The 9th digit is created by a complex equation utilizing the other characters in your VIN number. This single character verifies that your VIN number was legitimately authorized by the manufacturer. If this number doesn’t match, the vehicle might be stolen or something may have been altered.

10th Character: Model Year of a Vehicle

Starting from 1980, this 10th character represents the model year of a vehicle. “A” is used to represent a car manufactured in 1980, “B” for 1981, all the way to the letter “Y”. Many companies reset the lettering system after reaching the letter “Y”.

11th Character: The Manufacturing Plant of a Vehicle

Each company establishes their own method for assigning characters to each manufacturing plant. In order to find the manufacturing plant of your specific vehicle, you will need to search the manufacturer-specific character guide.

Last Six Characters: Vehicle’s Production Serial Number

The last few digits of your VIN number will detail exactly when your car came off of the assembly line. Serial numbers are issued in numerical order and each vehicle has a unique number. If you have a special-edition or limited release vehicle, you can use this number to verify whether or not your car came off of a special assembly line.

Benefits of Using a VIN Number Decoder

Using this guide, you can decode your own VIN number. In fact, many car enthusiasts around the world take pride in their ability to translate VIN numbers without any help. You can use an online VIN decoder to decipher your VIN and provide you with a detailed vehicle report. Once you understand what each character represents, it is much easier to see the benefits of a VIN decoder.

With this accurate detailing of your vehicle’s origins and features, you can make shopping for a new or used car so much easier. Knowing the specific details about a vehicle that you are interested in purchasing can help you make informed decisions. You can discover whether a car has effective safety features, which can benefit you financially with lower insurance rates. Conversely, you can avoid vehicles with poor safety features or rebuilt or salvage titles in order to avoid the steep cost of insuring those automobiles. Using a VIN number decoder can be incredibly useful, whether you use it to learn where your car was manufactured or to discover the safety features for a potential vehicle purchase.

Last updated on Tuesday, October 9 2018.

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