Q: What is a VIN Number?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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VIN is an acronym for "vehicle identification number." It is a serial number composed of numbers and letters. Each vehicle has a unique identification number that can be used by the Department of Motor Vehicles -- aka, the DMV -- to identify cars and other motor vehicles.

The DMV is a government agency that handles regulations on land vehicles. It is responsible for vehicle registrations and issuing drivers' licenses. The DMV also handles safety and emission inspections.

In 1954, vehicle identification numbers were already used. There wasn't any standard on making these numbers, however, and during this time, manufacturers used different formats. A standard format was created by 1981. VINs of vehicles manufactured after 1981 are composed of 17 alphanumeric digits and do not use the letters I, O, or Q. These letters were not used in order to prevent confusion with the numbers one and zero.

A car's VIN can be found on the dashboard on the driver's side. It can also be found at the sill of the driver's side door. This number is also printed on the insurance card or insurance policy, as well as on the vehicle's title and registration.

Each VIN has blocks of digits, and each block is a code that represents information about the vehicle. The first three digits of this number represent the car manufacturer. If the manufacturer produces fewer than 500 cars, the number nine is used in the third digit. The next five digits stand for the attributes of a vehicle. These attributes include the car's model and body style. The ninth digit is a check digit that is used to determine a VIN's validity. The last eight digits create a unique identifier used by car manufacturers, including the tenth digit which corresponds to a code that indicates the car's model year.

Vehicle identification numbers have a lot of uses. This number can be useful when buying a used car. Since it is unique for every vehicle, the VIN reveals some information about the car. With access to the motor vehicle registry, you can find out how many owners a car has had or, perhaps, if it has ever been involved in an accident.

VINs can also prevent theft of a car. Because it is hard to tamper with this code, it can be very difficult for thieves to resell a stolen car. With this number, the police can tell whether a car is stolen. This number can help in recovering a stolen vehicle.

Thieves, however, employ different techniques to be able to sell a car with a VIN plate. They can take the identification plate from a legally bought vehicle and place it on a stolen car. For the switch to be more convincing, the identification number should closely match the stolen car.

Because of this, it is a good practice to etch your vehicle's VIN on the windshield of your car. This adds protection to your car because it makes it almost impossible for car thieves to remove the number. They will have to replace the entire windshield, which may cost more than the profit they will make by selling the car.

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