Decode the VIN
Finding out a car’s VIN will not provide you with more than a string of letters and numbers if you do not know how to decode it. The code has 17 alpha-numeric positions which can be divided into three categories: World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), vehicle description and vehicle identification.
· WMI (Positions 1 to 3)
The first spot can be a letter or number and it will tell in which part of the globe your car was manufactured.
Here is a detailed breakdown:
Manufactured in Africa: A to H
Manufactured in Asia: J to N, P and R
Manufactured in Europe: S to Z
Manufactured in North America: 1 to 5
Manufactured in Oceania: 6 and 7
Manufactured in South America: 8 and 9
The letter or number of the second position combined with the first position will assist you in tracking down the country where your vehicle was produced. In the modern-era global economy, it may not be surprising to learn American cars are not all manufactured in the US. Vehicles are produced in almost 100 countries worldwide and over 600 VIN country codes exist. For the sake of brevity, we will not list those codes in this article.
The third alpha-numeric spot informs you of the type of vehicle, which could be a bus, car, truck, and so on. Unfortunately, there is no uniformity between auto manufacturers when it comes to the classify vehicle type via the third position of the VIN. Every vehicle manufacturer utilizes different codes for this purpose so to find out about the type of vehicle a VIN is referring to you will have to visit the manufacturer’s website.
Vehicle Description (Positions 4 to 9)
The alpha-numeric positions 4 to 9 will provide you comprehensive details about the vehicle.
Positions 4 to 8
Like spot 3, positions 4 to 8 change based on each auto manufacturer’s settings. These positions will give you information about body style, engine type, model and so on. To find out more, you will need to visit the website of the auto maker.
The ninth position is one you can skip. It’s usually derived from a mathematical formula to ensure the VIN is not fraudulent, but it does not give you any information about the vehicle.
Vehicle Identification (Positions 10 to 17)
Positions 10 through 17 tell you a vehicle’s production year with the options which were originally installed by the manufacturer in the vehicle.
The 10th spot on the VIN is reserved for the model year of the vehicle. Remember, the model year is not necessarily the year of manufacturing, as it is an industry standard to start production of vehicle one year before the model year. Another important item to note is a particular letter can signify more than one model year. For instance, A can mean the car was produced in 1980 or 2010. You can click here to figure out what year a vehicle’s model year is based on the VIN.
Position 11 to 17
These positions will give you unique information about each vehicle’s options added by the manufacturer during production, the name of the production plant, production sequence and more information of this type. Again, it is necessary to browse an auto manufacturer’s website to find out the meaning of each digit as every manufacturer has their unique format.
How to Get a Vehicle History Report
There are websites, such as edmunds.com and carfax.com, which will provide you a basic report for free. The basic report will not give you more information than you can decode yourself from analyzing VIN characters and positions (as detailed above). However, for a nominal fee (as low as $30) you can receive a full detailed vehicle history report. Other websites offer a particular check using a vehicle’s VIN. For instance, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) will inform you for free if a vehicle is associated with a VIN reported to be stolen and not recovered or if it was classified as a salvage vehicle.
If you are in the market for a new car, it may be a good idea to pay a small amount to get a car history report, particularly if you are purchasing a used vehicle.
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