• The world's automotive industries adopted the use of the vehicle identification number (VIN) in 1981. The VIN number essentially acts as shorthand for a car's vital statistics.


    Every car comes with a 17-digit vehicle identification number. Each digit in the VIN has a meaning, and this identifier can help track the history of a car.


    The first three digits of the VIN identify where the car was made. The next five digits are code for the different features found in the car. The ninth digit is used to ensure the accuracy of the first eight numbers. The final eight numbers are used for car specifics, such as the location of the manufacturing plant and model year.

    Characters 12 and 17

    Characters 12 and 17 are often the most vital part of the VIN. These tell the actual production number of the car and are the only unique characters for a car.


    VINs do not tell the same type of information for each vehicle. Some may be as specific as detailing part numbers, while others may just offer the make and model.

    Getting a VIN History

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the government does not track VINs. In order to get a car-history report, consumers need to go to a private information agency.


    SAE International: WMI/VIN Information Decoding Your VIN

    U.S. Department of Transportation: Understanding Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN)

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