The vehicle identification number or VIN is a 17-digit code that is unique for every motor vehicle. It allows you to look up your vehicle’s history, find compatible parts, and check if your car is affected by a manufacturer or safety recall.
Automakers and vehicle registration companies also store VIN numbers in their databases, allowing them to identify vehicles quickly.
Where to Find Your VIN Number
If you’re wondering where to find your vehicle’s VIN number, here are some of the common locations where you may find it:
Driver’s Side Dashboard
You can usually locate the VIN number by looking through the windshield of your car. Look for a spot near the bottom corner of the windshield, on the driver’s side. You should notice a small plate with numbers and letters through the glass.
This is the VIN plate—the characters should be around a quarter of an inch big.
Driver’s Side Doorjamb
Another key location where you can find the VIN is on the driver’s side door jamb—specifically, on the inner wall of the B-pillar. Instead of a slim metal plate, the VIN number will be on a sticker that contains other important information about the car.
It may contain the vehicle manufacturer’s name, manufacturing date, various weights and codes, tire and rim sizes, and the VIN barcode.
Under the Hood
You may also find your car’s VIN number by popping the hood. There are a number of areas in the engine bay where you can find the VIN sticker. Sometimes, it’s located in front of the engine block, on top of the radiator. Other cars have it on the firewall on the driver’s side.
It should be on a silver, white, or black sticker, depending on the car’s manufacturer.
Driver’s Side Quarter Panel
If you have an older car, perhaps something from the ‘60s or ‘70s, you may find the VIN plate riveted on the driver’s side quarter panel.
Vehicle’s Title Records
You can also find the VIN number on the vehicle’s title records or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration card. The DMV stores all VIN numbers of active vehicles in their database to record the car’s history.
If you recently bought a used car, you can run the VIN for a free history report through the DMV’s database. You should get the results in under 30 seconds.
Vehicle’s Insurance Card
You may also find the VIN number on your vehicle’s insurance card and insurance policy.
What is a VIN Number?
A VIN number is like your vehicle’s fingerprint. It is a unique combination of 17 capital letters and numbers that is used to identify your car.
You can type the VIN number into the NHTSA.gov website to access your car’s safety information, part specifications, and more. You can also use a free vehicle identification number lookup to obtain pertinent vehicle information as well.
In 1981, the government required manufacturers to utilize a VIN number that followed the 17-character code format. VIN numbers were neither standardized nor mandatory before then. Keep this in mind if your car is older than that year.
How to Read a VIN Number
The current VIN format is comprised of four groups of characters:
- World Manufacturers Identifier (WMI)
- Vehicle Description Section (VDS)
- Check Digit
- Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)
Each group consists of three or more characters—all except the check digit, which only consists of one.
Once decoded, the VIN will provide you with a range of pertinent information about your vehicle, such as its country of origin, the factory where it was built, the production year, and a distinct serial number.
The VIN label or plate may include a unique barcode under the actual VIN, which is sometimes preceded by letters I and O.
VIN Number Breakdown: What Each Character Means
If you’ve been wondering what the VIN’s numbers and letters mean, here’s a quick guide to what these characters stand for:
|Letter/Number||Country of Origin|
|Most numbers||North America|
|V||France or Spain|
|A||Audi, Alfa Romeo, or Jaguar Land Rover|
|D||Daihatsu or Mercedes|
|N||Infiniti or Nissan|
|T||Toyota or Lexus|
|V||Volkswagen or Volvo|
|3rd-8th Characters||-These vary depending on the automaker.|
-Describes various items, such as the braking system, restraint system, and body type.
-All domestic manufacturers reserve the eight character for the engine.
|9th Character||This refers to the Check Digit, which was developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) according to Einstein’s Theory of the Check Digit.|
|10th Character||This refers to the year the vehicle was manufactured.|
It starts with “B” up to “Y” for 2000.
|11th Character||This refers to the assembly plant for the vehicle.|
|12th-17th Characters||This refers to the six-digit chassis serial number specific to the vehicle.|
*Some examples. Other possible characters not listed.