The VIN (short for Vehicle Identification Number) is the identification code specific to a single automobile. Each VIN is a unique 17-character number for every US car and light truck with a model year of 1981 or later. The VIN is like a car's fingerprint, as no two vehicles have the same.
The VIN has a variety of vital use cases:
- Prospective buyers uncover important information about a vehicle's history including the country of origin, engine size, model year, vehicle type, airbag type, and more;
- Service shops identify the engine, brake systems, and transmission installed by manufacturers so that they can properly service vehicles;
- Law enforcement agencies identify and recover stolen vehicles and car vehicle parts;
- Auto manufacturers resolve safety recalls;
- Many more related to the make, build, model, and history of the vehicle.
Where can I find VIN?
The VIN includes 17 characters and always ends with 6 numbers. It can be found on the car itself or on the title documents for the car,
Example VIN: 1M1YP26P0651XXXXX.
Where to find on a vehicle:
- The dashboard (often readable through the windshield)
- Inside the door
- The engine firewall
- Under the hood
Where to find on documents:
- Vehicle title
- Service records
- Insurance policy
Where to find if I don’t have access to any of these?
Please try to contact the seller and tell him you need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If you do not have access to the car you are interested in or the papers, try to call the seller and tell him you need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
VIN decoding to uncover vehicle history information
Information related to a VIN number is organized in vehicle history reports which contain important information that should help prospective buyers make a final decision whether to buy a vehicle or not. Characters within a VIN indicate a vehicle's year, make, model, where it was manufactured, and more. VIN decoding will help you to find more information about:
- Odometer readings
- Registration of the vehicle
- Title information, including salvaged or junked titles
- Information about recalls
- Total loss accident history
- Structural or frame damage
- Lemon history
- Service and repair information
- Vehicle use as a taxi, police or rental car, and more.
The VIN’s role in a the car buying process
When planning to buy a used vehicle, the first thing one should check is the VIN. This allows prospective buyers to uncover historical information about a used vehicle that might not be apparent on the surface. This is especially true for used vehicles imported from the United States as there are many pieces of relevant information a seller or importer may not disclose, including odometer rollback, salvage title, and flood damage. Uncovering past history through the use of the VIN is a quick and easy way to ensure prospective buyers make informed decisions about an expensive purchase.
VIN cloning: Your car's identification may be vulnerable
Don’t be fooled, stolen cars are more common on the used market than most are aware of. The old saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” applies very well to used vehicles. If the VIN does not match the make, model or other information for the vehicle, it’s a telltale warning sign of deception by the seller.
"VIN cloning" or "car cloning" are terms used to identify a scam that involves using a VIN from a legally registered car to hide the identity of a stolen vehicle. Be attentive while buying a vehicle that has no history and be aware that you could even lose this vehicle and be responsible to pay off any loan that scammers took out for the purchase.
Car thieves obtain VINs by copying the number from vehicles sitting at parking lots or dealerships and using it to create fraudulent ownership documents.
Protect yourself against VIN cloning by ensuring a vehicle is legitimate by conducting thorough research. EpicVIN vehicle history reports are crucial in preventing innocent buyers from becoming a victim of the VIN cloning.
What else can be done to avoid potential VIN cloning scam?
- Make sure the VIN listed on the vehicle dashboard matches the VIN listed on relevant documents (title documents, service records, etc.), and with the VIN listed driver's side door sticker.
- Take a look at EpicVIN vehicle history report and check the identity of your vehicle, especially for US cars. Be wary of multiple registrations in different locations over a short period of time and check that the current odometer display is consistent with the reported mileage.
- Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic of your choice before you make a purchase.