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What You Need To Know About Your VIN

June 15, 2010

When shopping for a used car, it is natural to wonder what might have happened to it in the past. In particular, you may be concerned as to whether the vehicle was previously involved in an accident that might have damaged the car in ways that are not visible. This is where a VIN can help.

What information is included in a VIN?

Similar to a product’s serial number, the vehicle identification number or VIN is the most reliable source of information used to identify a vehicle. It is always composed of several characters that follow a pattern, where each number has a particular meaning.

A sample VIN looks like the following:

1 H G B H 4 1 J X M N 1 0 9 1 8 6

 

  • The 1st character describes the country where the vehicle was built 

     

  • The 2nd and 3rd characters identify the manufacturer 

     

  • The 4th to 8th characters detail the portrait of the vehicle (i.e. brand, engine size, and model) 

     

  • The 9th character is a security code that identifies the VIN as being authorized by the manufacturer 

     

  • The 10th character tells you the model year of the car 

     

  • The 11th character will indicate which plant assembled the vehicle 

     

  • The last 6 characters comprise the serial number of the vehicle 

    Why do I need a VIN?

    Having the VIN of a vehicle will allow you to check into the history of that vehicle and learn about any possible damages in the past which may not be apparent today. If you cannot get the VIN from the vehicle itself, you can ask the seller for it. At minimum you will be able to match the VIN provided by the seller to the VIN on the vehicle being purchased, to the ownership, and to the vehicle’s history report.

    Other ways to access a vehicle’s history

    A vehicle history report is another way of obtaining the vehicle’s history and can be obtained through sources such as Carfax, Autocheck or the Ministry of Transportation in your province. There may be a nominal fee for these reports, but it may be well worth it for your peace of mind. These comprehensive reports may include information such as previous damage or odometer rollbacks and will also confirm if the vehicle in question was previously in a severe accident and if it was salvaged or “written off” by an insurance company. You are also able to verify if the vehicle is stolen property by visiting www.cpic-cipc.ca (Canadian Police Information Centre) for a free search on the vehicle.