Every vehicle you can see on the road has its own, unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It is also sometimes referred to as the body number. VIN is unique to every vehicle, which literally means that no two cars share the same VIN. This is why the number is often compared to a car's DNA or a fingerprint, as it makes it possible to identify a vehicle just as easily and precisely.
VIN is not only used to identify passenger cars but also all the other vehicle types, from motorcycles and mopeds, through buses, trucks, and even trailers.
VIN is provided by the car manufacturer and it is placed on the vehicle before it leaves the factory. The number is put in different places depending on the model of a car but all VINs are uniform in terms of formatting. Vehicles manufactured in the EU are identified in accordance with ISO-3779; every VIN constitutes of 17 units (letters and digits, except for I, Q and O). The European norm also applies to vehicles manufactured in e.g. Canada, Japan, China and Australia.
Regardless of where the manufacturer put the VIN inside the car, the number must also be put into the vehicle documentation, such as the registration card.
What exactly does VIN include and what information can be decoded from it? Its different letters and digits have a precisely assigned meaning:
- the first three units are the WMI; it is the identification code of the manufacturer and country where the car was assembled. For instance, cars with their VINs beginning with “J” are all made in Japan, while those whose VIN begins with “1” are made in the USA.
- the second part of VIN includes vehicle type information. Every manufacturer codes this info in its own way but it is always included in units 4 to 9. It is here that lets you identify whether the car has air bags, what safety belts are fitted in it, what body type it has and how many doors, as well as what class of car it is (e.g. SUV, economy class). The last unit in this section is the VIN validation character: a special algorithm makes it possible to verify that none of the previous signs has been illegally modified.
- units 10 to 17 are letters and digits (the last 4 are always digits) that not only make it possible to identify the exact car (this part is unique to every vehicle), but they also contain data on the engine version, drive type, accessories and the like. It is also here that information on the model year and factory where the car was manufactured can be found (the year is always placed at unit 10).
It is worth knowing that VIN plates may contain other symbols apart from letters and digits; these symbols are called separators. Every manufacturer uses its own symbols to separate different sections of the VIN or to mark the beginning and end of the number. These separators are not, however, present in the registration documents; it is not allowed to use any spaces or dashes in the documentation.
Apart from being contained in the registration card, the VIN must also be placed on a special nameplate that can be found in different places depending on the car. In passenger cars the nameplate can usually be found near the right shock absorber, firewall, as well as the left side of the cockpit body.
When you have the VIN of a car, you can find out about much more than just where and when the car was manufactured or what accessories it had while leaving the factory. You can also check vehicle history, which is of great importance if you're planning to by a second-hand car. Because the number is unique to every car or motorbike, every country has its own databases storing information on e.g. accidents and collisions the car was involved in, service repairs and theft reports. Vehicle history reports also store the mileage logs and info on car owner changes.
You can find the report on a used car if you type in its VIN number on our website, autoDNA.pl. If you're planning to buy a second-hand car, make sure you visit it first!