Buying a car is a major commitment and needs to be done with a certain amount of care and attention. Every single car that is manufactured will feature a Vehicle Identification Number, known more commonly as a VIN, and it is the importance of this number that we are going to look at in the following article. Let’s begin by looking at what the VIN is, and why it is essential to check.
What is a VIN?
Since 1981 every vehicle manufactured for the road has been given a unique 17-digit code consisting of both letters and numbers, no matter where it was built in the world. This is the VIN, and it usually appears on a metal plate attached to the bodywork. The number identifies not only where the car was built, but who by, and also what type of vehicle it is (i.e. a car, a motorbike, a moped, etc). The concept of a VIN has been used since the 1950′s, but the current form of standard VIN since 1981. The VIN should tally with that on the vehicle’s paperwork, and this is particularly important when we are dealing with more expensive or valuable vehicles.
A VIN consists of a set of numbers that all indicate different things: the first three characters indicate the manufacturer of the vehicle. The next set of six numbers is used to indicate what type of vehicle the VIN applies to, and the remainder are a unique code for that one individual vehicle. It is easy to see, therefore, that by checking a VIN against the paperwork one can determine whether the papers apply to this actual vehicle. Note that this description applies to European standard VIN; the USA has a slightly different version, but of the same length.
So, why should you check the VIN? If a vehicle is reported stolen the VIN – and other details – are entered into a database. This makes it easy for the police to check a suspected stolen vehicle and determine whether it is in the correct ownership. A VIN check also ensures that an unsuspecting buyer is not purchasing a stolen vehicle. We will talk about how to check a VIN in a moment, but first, a little information about where to find it.
On cars the VIN is stamped onto a metal plate that is firmly attached to the bodywork; in some cars, it may be on the wing under the bonnet, in others it can be on the inner sill, often under the carpet or other floor covering. A good idea is to ask the vendor where to find it: if they are reluctant to tell you, then they may be hiding something. Now that we have determined what a VIN is, what it tells us, and where to find it, we need to talk about how best to check it. There are few online sources – CheckCarDNA and Carfax – both of which have selling points, so here’s a little more detail on each.
CheckCarDNA – Comprehensive Buyer’s Security Service
CheckCarDNA is one of a number of resources that allows users to check their VIN – and more – and is one of the leading names in the market. The website offers a wealth of information about buying a car, including great explanations about how to determine if the vehicle is genuine or has been doctored. There is also information on what to do when you’ve bought the car – in terms of notifying the right authorities and other legal obligations – and what to look for when examining a vehicle.
A further useful check involves looking at the car insurance history; it is not uncommon for previously written-off cars to emerge on the market, and this can man unspecified damage to the car. Indeed, this service runs over 20 checks, and can even find out whether the vehicle was imported, or was sold originally in the current market. Such a comprehensive service is difficult to match and comes highly recommended by its users.
Carfax – Information at the Touch of a Button
Carfax is another major player in the vehicle identification business and is widely used by buyers of used vehicles. The service involves checking both the VIN and the license plate and returns information on the following: finance history, previous insurance claims, accident damage, and service information. It can also tell if the vehicle has been used solely for domestic use, or if it has been used in business, say as a taxi.
The most important aspects of checking a car’s VIN are all here, and the service is simple and easy to use. The results are clearly provided, and the price is certainly very fair.