VIN for Dummies

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Posted 1 month ago by ThatsThem
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What is a VIN and why do they exist?

VIN (sometimes called VIN Number) stands for Vehicle Identification Number. This is a 17 character code unique to all vehicles. Think of it as your car’s fingerprint and it contains a lot of information about your vehicle including its make, model, the year it was built, where it was built, and engine type. VINs are also widely used for tracking purposes throughout the dealership networks and to track auto registrations, warranty claims, recalls, thefts and insurance coverage. Every car produced since 1981 is required to have a unique VIN.

Here is how a VIN is structured: 

Vin Schema

Where is the VIN on my car?

You can usually find a car's VIN number in a few different locations. It is usually located in the bottom corner of your windshield in front of the driver's seat. You may also be able to find it on the door jam on the driver's side of the vehicle. If you are still having trouble locating it you will always be able to find it on your registration card and it may be on your insurance card as well. 

Deterring auto theft is another major reason why VINs exist. On newer cars, they are often solidly behind glass making it more difficult for thieves to remove or scrape off should they steal the car. 

How can I use a VIN?

There are several valuable ways for you to use VINs.

Doing pre-purchase research on a car.

Nowadays if you’re purchasing a car online you can usually see the car's VIN in the advertisement for the vehicle. This is standard on most purchasing sites these days such as Cars.com, eBay Motors and others. See below is a screenshot of a record on Cars.com featuring a VIN.

Vin Cars Com

When purchasing a car, it is a good idea to run a quick vehicle history report from the car's VIN to understand if there are any unknown facts about the car that have been documented but not shared by the seller. This could include repair history, outstanding vehicle recalls, or mileage documented during repairs. vehiclehistory.com is a good place to start for running a free report. Running this scan as a purchase prerequisite is a good idea in all cases to ensure you’re most likely not ending up with a lemon.

Identifying and contacting a vehicle's owner.

Another way VINs are useful is in trying to contact a current owner. There are online datasets that tie VIN numbers to the car's current owners and provide contact information. As mentioned above this is useful for trying to contact a car's owner either to try and purchase the car or to ask them why they abandoned their piece of junk in your neighborhood. ThatsThem offers this service 100% free of charge.

If you have a VIN and would like to see a super quick and super free report about the car it belongs to and previous or current owners, ThatsThem offers a free reverse VIN search. Simply go to our VIN search page, enter your VIN in the searchbox and click SEARCH!

Vin Search

When available, ThatsThem shows some basic details about the car including make, model and year, provides a convenience link to a premium report, and shows the familiar ThatsThem-style record for owners.

Vin Infobox


Vin Record

If you have any questions or would like to suggest a topic we should cover in our next post, please contact us at info@thatsthem.com. Feel free to share this article if you found it helpful!


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