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Guide to Using a VIN Lookup

Vin Lookup

What is a VIN?

The vehicle identification number, or the vehicle’s VIN, is a serial of 17 characters, both numbers and letters that have been issued to individual cars since the 1981 model year. A VIN is accepted as the standard in North America for identifying motor vehicles. It provides vital information about the vehicle’s manufacturer, model year, model, make, class, and equipment of a vehicle. A VIN can uniquely identify a specific motor vehicle to the law enforcement, government, insurance industry, consumers and other concerned stakeholders.

Why is a VIN Number Lookup Important?

A VIN lookup can be to help in the many different situations, whether for vehicle owners, law enforcement, potential car shoppers, or insurance companies. Some examples where a VIN number lookup is useful include the following:

• VIN number lookups can help inform consumers when buying a used vehicle from a seller. A VIN lookup can help you avoid purchasing stolen vehicle or those that has been declared either unsafe for use or irreparable.
Law enforcement agents can use a VIN number lookup to identify or recover vehicles that have been stolen.
• You perform a VIN number lookup to ensure that the vehicle information is accurate. Not only should the make and model of the vehicle match, but the ownership and insurance of the vehicle should also match up as well. If there are any mistakes when you perform the VIN number lookup, you can have them corrected prior having to do any transactions involving the title.
• An insurance company can use a VIN number lookup to ensure that your insurance is rated properly in case of an accident.
• Vehicle maintenance and body shops can do a quick VIN number lookup so that they can order the right parts for your vehicle.

Using a Basic VIN Number Look-up

If you are not planning to purchase a VIN number lookup report but instead you only wish to look up what your VIN means, you can do that without having to rely on commercial VIN lookup services. For most American cars, a VIN lookup is performed by first breaking up the VIN number into its appropriate sections and then interpreting each section, which often requires you to look up specific codes. The seventeen digits of a VIN are broken up into the following:

o Characters 1-3 of a VIN lookup: World Manufacturer Identifier
o Characters 4-8 of a VIN lookup: Vehicle attributes
o Character 9 of a VIN lookup: Check Digit
o Character 10 of a VIN lookup: Model year
o Character 11 of a VIN lookup: Plant code
o Character 12-17 of a VIN lookup: Sequential number

This particular break down is applied to VIN number lookups for cars in North America where the vehicles are produced in quantities that exceed 400.

The first step in performing a VIN number lookup is to figure out the make of the vehicle. This is determined by the first three digits of the VIN, called the World Manufacturer Identifier. The first digit of the World Manufacturer Identifier, it explains where the vehicle was made. For the United States, the first character would be 1, 4, or 5. However, it is possibly that your vehicle was not made in the United States. Some other common ones include:
• Canada: 2, • Italy: Z• Australia: 6• Korea: K• Germany: W• Sweden: Y• England: S• France: V• Brazil: 9• Japan: J

You may need to do a more extensive VIN number lookup and if your vehicle’s VIN does not begin with one of these. The second and third digit of your VIN will also require more VIN lookup skills, since they are specific to each manufacturer. These two help determine not only where the manufacturer built the vehicle, but what model it was. These designations are assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States. After this, you can use a VIN number lookup on the next five digits to determine the specific features of a vehicle or its attributes. The serials used in this section are determined by the manufacturer, so you will have to look up specific information to the manufacturer in order to figure out what the characters mean.

VIN Lookup to Find the Model Number

While there are small variations between countries on how to portray model years on a VIN, the accepted form for most manufacturers is to use for the tenth digit to convey the model number of a vehicle. If the vehicle was sometime between 2001 and 2009, the digit from 0-9 will be used. For example, 6 would indicate a 2006 model vehicle.

For older vehicles that were built between 1980 and 2000, the code in the VIN will be the letter from A to Y, excluding the three letters (I,O, Q) as the tenth position of the VIN.

Model Production Sequence with a VIN Number Look-up

The last six digits indicate just how far along into a given production run the vehicle was built in. For many car owners, this sequence is not very significant. This portion of the VIN may not be important to many car owners, but for owners of special vehicle models, such as limited edition or end-of-production models, a VIN lookup for this section can be important to prove the authenticity of the vehicle’s status.

Who Can Provide a VIN Number Lookup Report?

Many different commercial services provide VIN lookups to help you check records on a vehicle. A VIN lookup is performed commercially in the Motor Vehicle Records database. By performing a VIN lookup, the VIN is compared to records in order to find information on the vehicle, such as the previous owners of the vehicle, if the vehicle was stolen, the last inspection date of the vehicle, whether the vehicle was ever classified as an unusable or other statuses, or if the vehicle was ever involved in major incidents. By performing a VIN lookup, you can also figure out if the odometer of the vehicle has ever been significantly manipulated.

While many sites claim to provide free VIN number lookup services, they are either lying or they may show a very limited amount of information. When you pay to perform a VIN number lookup and receive a report, you will get a lot of information about what the vehicle has been involved in, as well as identifying details of the vehicle manufacturer, year, model, class, tag, vehicle owner’s address and phone number, tag, odometer, and more.

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