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What is a vehicle identification
number (VIN)?

VIN Example

The car's vehicle identification number (VIN) is the identifying code for a SPECIFIC automobile. The VIN serves as the car's fingerprint, as no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. A VIN is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer. The VIN can be used to track recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts and insurance coverage.

What if the VIN is not 17 characters long?

Double-check to make sure that you have the right VIN and have copied it down correctly. Once you have verified that the VIN is definitely less than 17 characters, the VIN is most likely from a pre-1981 vehicle.

Prior to 1981, VINs varied in length from 11 to 17 characters. AutoCheck can only report on vehicles that use a 17 character VIN. Therefore, information on vehicles manufactured before 1981 is limited.

VIN Decode Explained

What do the numbers and letters in a VIN mean?

What do the 17 digits in a VIN mean? See the breakdown below of the meaning behind each segment of the VIN:

VIN decode


Where Can I Find the VIN?

The VIN can be found by looking at the dashboard on the driver's side of the vehicle. The easiest way to view it is to stand outside the vehicle on the driver's side and look at the corner of the dashboard where it meets the windshield. If the VIN cannot be found there, open the driver's side door and look at the door post (where the door latches when it is closed). It is likely that the VIN will also be displayed in this location. See the image below:

how to find the vin number

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration


You can obtain a free VIN check by entering it in the VIN check box below under "Run an AutoCheck® vehicle history report." Enter your VIN in the space provided and click "Check VIN." (You can obtain your free VIN check without having to purchase anything.)

Above the order form, you will be able to view the year, make, model, style and country of assembly for your VIN. In addition, you will also be told how many vehicle history records there are for this vehicle. To view a full vehicle history report, choose one of the report options and fill out your information to purchase the package you want.

vinbox anchor image

FREE Vehicle Search: Enter a VIN

Two ways to find the vehicle history you're looking for:

Search by VIN

Please enter a vehicle identification number to continue
Please check your VIN and try again

Is it a valid VIN? Valid vehicle identification numbers:

  • Have exactly 17 characters
  • Come from a vehicle manufactured after 1980
  • Do not contain letters I, O, or Q

Search by US License Plate

Please check your Plate Number and try again

Is it a valid US License Plate or Specialty Plate? Valid license plates:

  • Are no more than 11 characters long
  • Were issued in the United States or US Territories
  • May contain additional characters if they are issued as specialty plates that endorse special causes
Please enter a US License Plate Number to continue
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