Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs)
Every car and light truck model year 1981 or later has a unique 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN). A VIN has many important uses, including unlocking important information about a vehicle's history.
VINs also have many other important uses. For example, service shops use VINs to identify the engine, transmission and brake systems installed by manufacturers so that they can properly service vehicles. Law enforcement agencies use VINs to identify and recover stolen cars and car parts. Auto manufacturers use VINs when they resolve safety recalls.
Locating the VIN
Vehicle History Information From VINs
Characters within a VIN indicate a vehicle's year, make, model, where it was manufactured, and more. VIN decoding is the process of deciphering these details.
The VIN is also used to access the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Every CARFAX Report contains important information that can impact your decision about a used vehicle. Some types of information included in CARFAX Reports include:
Using VINs in the Car Buying Process
There are many things a seller may not disclose to you, such as a salvage title, flood damage or an odometer rollback. Any of these and other issues can affect the safety, performance and even value of a used car.
To make it more difficult for you to learn a vehicle's history, crooked sellers may list the wrong VIN in an online vehicle posting or may not be willing to provide the VIN at all. Scam artists may also alter the vehicle's title documents to hide potential problems.
Use these tips to protect yourself from fraud as you shop for a used car:
After you buy a car, you will need the VIN to insure the car and to register it at your local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Tip: When registering the car, make sure to report the correct VIN and an accurate odometer reading. This information is recorded by the DMV and may appear on the CARFAX Report for your vehicle.