You’ve probably noticed a metal plate with a long number on it attached to your dashboard. Or maybe it’s on the door jamb or in the boot, but it’s certainly there. What is this long number and what is it used for? Believe it or not, that number will tell your car’s life story – where it’s been, how it’s made, and what to expect from it in the future.
Vehicle Identification Numbers
The long number on your dashboard is the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. Every car manufacturer in the world produces a unique number for their vehicles, something that can easily be referenced for vital information. The system was created to prevent fraudulent transactions – you can’t pass off one car as another when each vehicle has its own special code. A VIN decoder from CarVertical will help prevent these scammers from making untruthful claims and selling you an overvalued car.
Whether it’s called a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or a World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), the core principle is the same.
A long string of numbers and letters act like the rings on a tree trunk, describing the age, make, and features of the vehicle. This code is 17-digits long and gives you a more complete picture of a vehicle than you’d think. Whether its a motorcycle produced in China or a sports car built in Germany, you’ll be able to decipher a lot from the code. Here’s what it means:
First Three Digits – The first few digits in the VIN code tell you the most basic facts about the car, namely its country of origin, name of the manufacturer, and type of vehicle. It only takes three digits to determine if a car is a Honda sedan or an American Ford truck. These digits are a combination of both letters and numbers, but it’s often simply a J for Japan or W for Germany. A starting digit of 1, 2, or 4 represents the United States, 2 is for Canada, and 3 is for Mexico. So if your dealer tells you the car is from Germany but the VIN starts with a 3, you can immediately express your skepticism.
Digits Four to Eight – Now that we know the manufacturer and country of origin, let’s get down to the real nuts and bolts. What model is this vehicle? What features does this particular version have? Are there safety features like driver AND passenger side airbags? Is the engine 4 or 6 cylinders? These four digits tell you what type of chassis, engine, and transmission are featured in the vehicle and whether it has safety measures like airbags and anti-theft alarms.
Digit Nine – This isn’t a real part of the VIN, it’s simply a security measure put in place to prevent fraud. The ninth digit is formulated based on a series of mathematical algorithms. If this digit is incorrect, a red flag is immediately raised.
Digits Ten and Eleven – The tenth digit tells you the year the car was made. For example, a car produced in 2012 will have a tenth digit of C. The eleventh digit takes the manufacturer and narrows it down to the specific factory that produced the vehicle.
Digits Twelve through Seventeen – Finally, we have the actual serial number of the car. This sequence is the unique number given to each car that comes from a specific manufacturer’s plant. For example, if a Chevy Suburban has 218324 as the final six digits, it means that particular vehicle was the 218,324th Suburban to come out of that specific Chevy plant.