The number of vehicle recalls we have seen issued from car manufacturers recently makes it feel like buying a new car, whether off the production bell or previously used, is a bit of a crapshoot. Just this month, Toyota issued a 6.5-million car recall due to faulty power-window switches. This is not to single out Toyota as other manufacturers, whether they be German, American, Korean or Japanese, have all been guilty of delivering less than top quality products. Given the numerous auto parts are produced by a stream of subcontractors, it is only a matter of time before someone in the stream skimp on the manufacturing process to save costs.
As the big auto-makers don’t have direct control and supervisory abilities, they often get caught with underperforming parts. This recent history is an important motivating factor in acquiring as much information as you can before proceeding with a transaction. With a second-hand car, you are always worried about the car’s history. You want to know whether the car has been in an accident and if it was serious enough to cause ongoing mechanical issues.
Conversely, when buying a brand new car you don’t want to get stuck with a lemon and continuously have to return your vehicle to the dealer for repairs and then be stuck with large bills once the warranty runs out. The best tool you possess to gather as much information about a vehicle as possible is to check out a car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):
What is VIN?
A VIN is a unique 17-digit code assigned to every vehicle by a manufacturer during production. A vehicle’s VIN will allow you to figure out the manufacturer, the location of manufacturing, and even the car’s options and history. The number was first introduced in 1954 and it was not standardized until 1981 when the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created VIN rules and required all over-the-road vehicles to display the 17-character code. To prevent confusion with the numbers 0 and 1, the NHTSA mandated that a VIN code cannot include the letters I, O and Q.
Purpose of VIN
Over the years, VIN has been used for multiple purposes. Auto manufacturers utilize it to keep track of vehicles when there’s a need for a recall, upgrade or other information. It also assists law enforcement agencies use it as a trail to find stolen vehicles or parts. It is an excellent feature for the service industry that can use a VIN to aid in identifying what parts are compatible with a vehicle and to order the correct parts for repairs and maintenance.
Finally, the VIN is now often used by consumers in the market for a car to go through a detailed history of the car before acquiring it. There are now third-party services that allow you to trace a car’s past with precision based on its VIN. A car history report acquired via a VIN will give you information regarding model year, date the car was sold by the manufacturer, number of times it was sold, number of miles on the odometer at each sale, whether the buyer was a commercial entity or a private citizen, if it was reported stolen, were there any insurance claims on it for accidents, whether the car was declared unsalvageable, if it was refurbished and put back on the road, if the vehicle had any water or flood damage, warranties remaining on the car, recall history, if there are any liens (loans) against the vehicle and so on.
Finding a VIN
Locating a vehicle’s VIN is a relatively simple task and there is more than one way to go about it.
· On the Car
The most reliable method to figure out a car’s VIN is to locate it on the vehicle itself. A VIN is generally located on the driver’s side dashboard, in the front left hand corner, where you can see it from outside the car. Other location possibilities include the driver’s side door jamb, radiator, steering column and engine block. For security purposes, the VIN is never placed on a car part which can be removed or exchanged and normally sits on the car’s body.
· Browse Your Car Documents
The second method to locate a motor vehicle’s VIN is to check the car’s government issued registration or a previous deed of sale for the car. If neither is available to you, you can try checking repair and maintenance records as some auto mechanics list the VIN on their invoices.
If you do not have access to the vehicle or any official documents, then you can ask someone at the car dealership if they can provide it to you or ask the person who currently has possession of the car. You can go back and confirm physically if you were given the correct information.
Continued in the next article.
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