Know Your Car: How To Find Your VIN
It's just VIN, not "VIN number," by the way.
Everybody who owns a car has had to jump through hoops to get insurance. In a common scenario, you’re on the phone with your agent, seeking to add your brand-new, or new-to-you wheeled conveyance to your insurance policy. You explain to the agent over the phone the make, model, color, year, and license plate number, but for some reason, the agent tells you that more information is needed. Huh? What more information could they possibly need? “We need the VIN,” the agent tells you.
You pause for a second, a bit confused. What the heck is a VIN? And where the heck would I even find that information on a car? Car Bibles can help with that.
What Is a VIN?
VIN is an acronym that is short for Vehicle Identification Number. The VIN, commonly incorrectly referred to as a VIN number a la ATM machine, is a 17-character code made up of numbers and letters that uniquely identifies one singular vehicle. Most electronic devices come with a serial number, and conceptually, a VIN is the same but specifically for cars.
How To Find a VIN
A VIN isn’t some classified, top-secret piece of information that requires a CIA security clearance to disseminate. I promise, automakers want you to know the VIN, and most have placed them in discrete, yet accessible spaces on your vehicle. Here are some common places on your vehicle to look for your VIN. In case you’re not sure, I’ll demonstrate with this 2022 Toyota 4Runner here.
- Take a step outside and look at the front of your car. On the dashboard in front of the driver in the very furthest corner, closest to the windshield, will be the VIN. In some vehicles, the dashboard may have a specific cutout just for the VIN.
- Open your door. Inside the driver’s door jamb, there should be a sticker, usually placed towards the bottom of the door. This information often includes the VIN, along with other helpful details for your car.
- If you have the vehicle’s title or registration, those documents list the VIN.
- A VIN could also be found on an insurance card.
- Check under the hood. Sometimes, not always, your vehicle’s engine may have a VIN placard or barcode, often on one side of the engine.
- Some older BMW and Mercedes vehicles have VINs stamped on body panels, namely on the trunk lid, underneath where a license plate would usually be.
FAQs About How To Find Your Car’s VIN
Based on data from search engines, as well as considerations of what we’d want to know, we’ve gathered frequently asked questions that should help you understand the process of changing a tire.
Q: How do I decode what the VIN means?
A: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a page specifically for that. Visit the NHTSA VIN Decoder and punch in your VIN for more information.
Q: I’m looking to purchase a car and I can’t find the VIN anywhere. Is that bad?
A: If you can’t find the VIN in the places mentioned above, then you might have a problem if somebody is intentionally hiding something. The VIN is a unique number that identifies a vehicle. It proves that your vehicle is your vehicle. Typically, they’re not the easiest bit of information to remove, and without that information, it will be impossible to ensure that the vehicle hasn’t been declared a total loss, was stolen, or worse.
Q: I’ve seen multiple VINs on my vehicle, what does this mean?
A: Some manufacturers VIN stamp parts that other manufacturers do not. A vehicle could have been repaired with used parts, and the used part would have the VIN of whatever car that part came from. It doesn’t necessarily mean the car’s a rust bucket, but it does mean the car has been repaired at one point in time. Do your research.
Q: The VIN is just visible in the windshield like that? Can people do malicious things with my VIN?
A: In general, you should be safe. No dealership will cut or program keys without proof of ownership, so even if some stranger writes down your VIN, there’s not much they can really do with it. Still, some less than scrupulous bad actors have cloned and stolen vehicles from VINs, but that’s exceptionally rare.
Q: What is VIN swapping?
A: VIN swapping is when unscrupulous people steal the VIN stickers and placard from a totaled or defunct vehicle, and put them on a different vehicle. Often, the new VIN vehicle recipient is stolen, or had been totaled, or some other horrible thing. This is illegal.
Watch This Video Tutorial On How To Find a VIN
Listen, I get it, reading is hard, and cars are confusing. Maybe you’d do better with a visual aid. Here’s a great video from Damagedcars.com, plainly showing how and where to find a VIN on most any vehicle. He’s easy to follow, and the video is clear as day. It’s a great resource, give it a gander.
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