What A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Is Used For

July 15, 2019

Like people with our social security numbers, cars have their own unique way of being identified. This is with a vehicle identification number, or VIN. A VIN tells a lot, with each character providing you with different pieces of information.

The most common place for a VIN to appear is on your dashboard on the driver’s side. Where the corner of the dashboard and windshield come together, there is often a tiny plate stamped in the area containing a mix of 17 letters and numbers. Another area you can check for the VIN would be inside the driver’s side door sill. It will also be present on documentation for the vehicle, ranging from the registration to the owner’s manual.

VIN Location

VIN Number Breakdown

Okay, so you know that your VIN is a set of 17 letters and numbers - but this jumble of characters probably doesn’t mean much to you. Each of the symbols actually tell valuable pieces of information pertaining to the vehicle.

The first three symbols of the VIN are also known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). The first character lets you know the country of the manufacturer, while the second two give you the specific manufacturer (ex:BMW). 

The six symbols following the WMI are known as the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS), describing the vehicle type. This section gives someone the general characteristics of vehicle, such as the body type, engine type, number of doors, etc. Each manufacturer has their own system for displaying this information.

The final eight characters of the VIN are used as the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). This is the car’s unique serial number for the manufacturer to be able to identify the exact vehicle by production year and original equipment.

VIN Breakdown

Is it Safe to Give Your VIN Out?

Given the amount of information that a VIN contains about a car, it’s fair to ask if giving out a VIN is a safe thing to do. After all, people aren’t going around sharing their social security numbers!

Keep in mind that the VIN of your car is pretty much in plain sight already in the spot on the dashboard. It’s actually a smart thing to give out a VIN when trying to sell a vehicle so that potential buyers can know the history of a vehicle.

VINs are something that can actually deter thieves, because it can be a lot more difficult to resell a car. The “stolen” status would be visible in a VIN. There’s really not much someone can do with a VIN - it can be compared to your license plate number as far as being public information.


What is a VIN Used For?

The VIN is an extremely useful tool that is used in a variety of circumstances, including:

- Purchasing A Used Car

Often, people will use a VIN when before buying a used car to see the records the car has in the Motor Vehicle Registration database. These records can give information about how many owners the car has had and when it was last inspected.

- Insurance quotes

Many car insurance companies want a VIN when people apply for a quote so that the specifics of a vehicle can be located. Auto insurers want to know as much as they can about a vehicle to provide the most accurate quote. The VIN is also required when purchasing insurance, so that they can ensure the car isn’t listed as stolen and can check if it’s a salvaged title.

- Identifying Uninsured Vehicles

Many states require car insurance companies to provide VINs to the department of motor vehicles so that they are easily able to find uninsured vehicles. Making sure a car’s VIN matches the number listed on the policy is important!

- Online parts shopping

When a person is wanting to find the exact car part for their vehicle, plugging in the VIN can direct them to the specific part they need. There are so many different cars on the market with various body styles and add-ons that having the specific information from a VIN can make a huge difference with finding the right part. The VIN relays information like the model year and trim level of the vehicle to the website, which can identify the specific OEM parts that are needed. This ensures that the fit and dimensions will be exact to the configuration of the car.

Search For Parts For Your Car By VIN

We’re happy to use this technology on our online parts store to allow you to find the right items for your vehicle. All it takes is plugging in the VIN to get the parts that will fit the measurements of your car to a T. 

The VIN number will help us pull different OEM parts from our inventory that are exact matches for your car’s make and model. You can have confidence when shopping that the parts you order will have the right dimensions and measurements for an easy install in your vehicle.