What Is A VIN #?

Vehicle Identification Number

A Vehicle Identification Number, commonly abbreviated to VIN, is a unique code including a serial #, used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles.   In 1981 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized the format requiring a 17 character # (combination of numbers and letters) which is used to identify specific information pertaining to each individual vehicle.   Below is a breakdown of what each digit designates:




The VIN # can be located on the car’s dashboard on the driver side in front of the steering wheel.  It can also be found in a number of additional locations:

  • At the front of the engine block. This should be easy to spot by popping open the hood, and looking at the front of the engine.
  • At the front of the car frame, near the container that holds windshield washer fluid.
  • At a rear wheel well. Try looking up, directly above the tire.
  • Inside the driver-side doorjamb. Open the door, and look underneath where the side-view mirror would be located if the door was shut.
  • At the driver-side doorpost. Open the door, and look near the spot where the door latches, not too far from the seatbelt return.
  • Underneath the spare tire.

The VIN # is used by insurance to identify safety features, engine options, body type, etc.  to assist in determining pricing and in processing of claims.  It also can be used to identify vehicles in recall situations so the owner can be notified.   Most insurance companies include this number on the policy holder’s insurance card for easy identification. 

So now you know everything there is to know about VIN #’s (actually probably more than you ever wanted or need to know)!