For example, later it may turn out that the car was in a serious accident, worked in a taxi, the loan has not yet been paid for it, and the last of the five owners has alimony debts. In order not to buy such a car, you need to check it against all possible databases.


What can you find out about a car by VIN Cracking the PM interview
In the announcement of the sale of the car, they do not always write all the details.

Cars are primarily identified by VIN or body number - for cars from the Japanese market with right-hand drive. Sometimes the check can be done directly from home, if the number is indicated in the sale announcement.

Free services provide information on one or more verification parameters. If you collect them all, you will get a full assessment of the car. Paid services collect all the data in one report and supplement it with useful details that have been transmitted by commercial companies. For example, recall campaigns of authorized dealers or old car sales ads with photos and descriptions.

In this article I will tell you what a VIN is (based on the VIN decoder post) and why to check a car using it, what you can find out about a car by its number, what free government services are available for verification. I will also compare the features and prices of popular paid services, and in the end I will explain why their reports should not be treated as one hundred percent true.

What is a VIN

VIN is an abbreviation of the English Vehicle identification number — vehicle identification number. It consists of 17 numbers and letters, each of which contains information about the car. Each car has a unique VIN, like a human fingerprint.

The code is divided into three parts:

  • The first three characters are the World manufacturer's code, World manufacturer identifier (WMI).
  • The next six are the general characteristics of the model, Vehicle description section (VDS).
  • The last eight are the characteristics of a particular vehicle, Vehicle indicator section - VIS.

How to check a car before buying

The first digit or letter VIN is the geographical area in which the car was produced.

What does the first character VIN mean

  • A-H Africa
  • J-R Asia
  • S-Z Europe
  • 1-6 North America
  • 6-7 Oceania
  • 8-9 South America

The second symbol is the country. Some countries correspond to a whole range of letters or numbers. For example, after the unit at the beginning of the VIN, there can be any number or letter: in any case, it will be the USA. For the convenience of identification, there is a special table. Vertically — part of the world, horizontally - letters and numbers that correspond to countries.

The third symbol is the manufacturer's division. Sometimes it denotes the type of vehicle. Together with the first two digits, it forms a code by which the manufacturer of the car can be identified. If a manufacturer makes up to 500 cars a year, then it will always be the number 9.

The symbols from the fourth to the ninth are determined by the manufacturer himself — they match two cars of the same model and configuration.

The symbols have their own sequence and unique designations for each manufacturer. They may contain information about the model, type of engine, body and transmission.

Usually the ninth position is a verification digit. It is calculated according to a special algorithm at the factory, what it will be depends on the other characters. If some character in the VIN is "interrupted", then the verification digit will also change.

Not all manufacturers use all six characters to characterize the model, so the remaining characters are filled with zeros or the letters Z.

A car with a twisted mileage

The symbols from the tenth to the seventeenth are the identification of a particular car. The tenth symbol, as a rule, indicates the model year of the car. Do not confuse this position with the year of manufacture of the car, as they may differ. For example, if the model was launched in 2018, then the tenth character will always be "J", even if this particular car was produced in 2021. Since 2001, the codes have been denoted by a number, and since 2010 - by a letter.

One manufacturer can have many factories around the world, so the eleventh digit indicates a specific manufacturer. The last six positions of the VIN are the unique serial number of the car, and the last four are always digits.

Source: VIN lookup