Types of Vehicle Auctions
How to Find Vehicle Auctions
What Are Government Auctions?
How Government Auctions Work
How to Buy a Reliable Used Car
How to Spot Flood-Damaged Vehicles
How to Spot Odometer Rollback
Vehicle Title Branding
Vehicle Title Branding
Lemons & Title Branding
Salvage & Title Branding
What is the VIN?
How to Find the VIN
Understanding the VIN
Using the VIN
Buying Used Cars
Government Vehicle Auctions
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Understanding the VIN
VINs, also known as vehicle identification numbers are alphanumeric codes that uniquely identify every different individual motor vehicle. The VIN can be found both the vehicle itself, and on many documents associated with the vehicle such as registration documents, insurance documents, etc.
VINs were first introduced in 1954, and for many years there was no common format used by all manufacturers of vehicles. Different manufacturers encoded different information in their VINs, and the length of the VIN varied between 11 and 17 characters depending on the manufacturer.
However, since 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States has mandated a standard 17 character format (now known as "FMVSS 115, Part 565"), which is now used for all vehicles in the United States and Canada. (Please note however that other countries use slightly different 17 character formats for their VINs).
VINs consist of a combination of 17 characters, and may include both numeric digits and letters. However the letters I, O, and Q are not used, since these could easily be mistaken for the digits 1 or 0. Additionally, certain additional characters can appear in some positions (example: the 10th character can be U or Z).
Here is how the VINs are encoded are according to the North American standard, FMVSS 115, Part 565:
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