How to Do a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Search

how to do a vehicle identification number search

Imagine your dream car. It can be whatever you like—maybe it’s a Mercedes G-Wagon, Porsche, or Rolls Royce. Or, perhaps it’s something exotic and futuristic like an Ashton Martin.

Regardless of what it is, you may be imagining your dream car as a brand new vehicle with untouched leather seats, zero damages, and touch screen devices that have no fingerprints. But what if you can’t get your dream car brand new? What if you have to get one that someone has already used?

Just because you find yourself in this situation doesn’t mean you can’t get your dream car in great condition. In fact, you can get your dream car in near perfect condition even though someone has already owned and driven it for a period of time.

You just have to do a VIN search. By taking this step, you can ensure you purchase a used version of your dream car in a condition that’s actually worth buying. 

What is a VIN?

When you’re in the market for your dream car—or any car, for that matter—you need to check the vehicle’s history if it’s a used automobile. You can achieve this goal by looking at the Vehicle Identification Number, which is the formal way of saying VIN. 

This 17-digit number is a unique code that’s gets assigned to every car that someone has used. With the VIN, you can easily check a car’s history so that you have all of the information you need to discern whether or not you want to buy a car in used condition. 

What’s also great about using a VIN is that it allows you to see what you may not notice on the surface. For example, you can look at the inside and outside of a vehicle and quickly catch any scratches, tears, dents, and any other eyesores. 

But you can’t look at the inside or outside of a vehicle to tell if someone’s totaled it. This insight is something you can only gain access to by utilizing the car’s VIN. With it, you can become privy to several things, including: 

  • Whether or not the vehicle has been in an accident
  • If the vehicle experienced flood damage
  • If someone has totaled the vehicle in the past 
  • What the previous owner(s) used the vehicle for (lease, taxi, rental, etc.)
  • The condition of the airbags and whether they’re safe
  • If there are any open recalls  
  • What the service history is for the vehicle 
  • Details about the title, including junk or salvage titles
  • The vehicle’s ownership history 
  • Damages to the vehicle’s structure or frame
  • Rollbacks on the odometer 

Thorough information on a used vehicle is what you need to consider to make the right purchasing decision. You don’t want to get stuck with a car that breaks down on you the second you grab the keys and drive off the lot. Instead, you need to buy a vehicle that’s safe and in excellent condition, even if someone has already used it. 

How to understand a VIN 

vehicle identification number search

While doing a VIN search is critical to buying a great used vehicle, you can’t take this step if you don’t know how to. Before you can check the VIN, you first have to understand how to read it. 

When you look at a VIN, the 17-digits will represent the vehicle’s year, make, model, engine, location of manufacture, plant code, production number, and more. Sometimes, you might find older vehicles with a VIN that’s 16 characters—but even in those cases, you’ll still discover a lot of information about your desired motor vehicle. 

However, to guarantee you get the most out of using your VIN, here’s a brief explanation about how to decode each number. 

1. The first three digits

When you look at the first three digits in the VIN, you get to see the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) number. This particular part of the VIN clues you into three specific things: 

  • Country of origin: The very first digit in the VIN will tell you the vehicle’s final point of assembly. Sometimes, this is the location where manufacturers produced the vehicle. But other times, the country of origin is the location of the manufacturer’s headquarters. 
  • Manufacturer: If you want to learn who manufactured the vehicle and the region it was made in, you should look at the second digit in the VIN. 
  • Type: When you review the third digit in the VIN, you’ll learn the vehicle type and the specific manufacturing division that created it. 

The first three digits in the VIN offer some of the most foundational information about the used automobile. And while these insights might seem unimportant, they can help determine if you actually want to buy the car, especially if you care about who manufactured it.    

2. Digits four through nine 

When you start looking at digits four through nine, you’re checking out the Vehicle Descriptor Section. 

Specifically, digits four through eight will reveal the model, engine type, transmission, and body style. Many service shops prefer to reference this information to ensure they understand the vehicle’s systems to service it properly. 

However, the ninth digit is just as important. This number helps determine if a VIN is even valid. The Department of Transportation uses a mathematical formula to create the ninth digit, and with it, you have complete visibility into whether a vehicle has the correct VIN and history. 

3. Digits 10 – 17  

The remaining digits in the VIN suggest the Vehicle Identifier Section. The tenth digit will reveal the model year. The 11th digit will suggest the manufacturing plant that produced the vehicle. And the last digits typically provide the serial number, which tells you when in the sequence the vehicle came off the assembly line. 

Where to find the VIN

Now that you know how to decode a VIN, you may be wondering where you can find it on a vehicle. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to detect. 

You can usually discover a VIN on the dashboard or jamb sticker on the driver’s side door. However, if you can’t find it there, you can also look on the engine, in the trunk, on the frame inside the hood, or in a spare tire area. Those places might sound like unique locations for a VIN, but you’ll sometimes find them in those particular spots. 

How to do a VIN search

Knowing how to understand and find a VIN means you have almost everything you need to do a VIN search. Your last step is just to find a credible company to look up the VIN. 

Your first thought may be to go to the DMV for this service. However, you don’t want to wait in long lines or schedule an appointment for months in advance. Barry Risk Management, Inc. can do a VIN search quickly and easily to ensure you get the historical data you need in a timely manner. 

By using Barry Risk Management, Inc., you’ll get a complete list of accidents, previous owners, repairs, and more so that you know exactly what you’re buying. 

Contact a representative with Barry Risk Management, Inc. today to do the VIN search that you need.