When it comes to purchasing a car, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure you’re getting the best value for money. One of the most important things to do is find the car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Within this guide, we will be taking you through exactly what a VIN is and how to find a car’s VIN for free.

What Does VIN Mean?

A VIN (short for Vehicle Identification Number) is a 17-digit code that acts as the car’s identification. Just like we have birth certificates, a VIN helps to identify any type of vehicle. VINs are completely unique to the vehicle, meaning no two VINs are the same.

Read on to discover exactly what you can learn from a VIN.

The VIN Coding System

When you first look at a VIN, you may feel overwhelmed. At a glance, it just looks like a VIN is a random jumble of numbers and letters, but once you understand the coding system, you’ll realise its true value. Below, we have listed the meaning behind every single character:

1st Character: The first character refers to where the vehicle was built.

2nd and 3rd Character: The second and third characters help you to establish the manufacturer of the car.

4th to 8th Characters: Fourth to eighth helps to identify the brand of vehicle, as well as engine size and type.

9th Character: The ninth character is an important one. It is a unique security code that confirms the VIN has been authorised by the manufacturer.

10th Character: The tenth character displays the car’s model year.

11th Character: Moving on to the eleventh character – this clarifies what plant assembled the vehicle.

Final 6 Digits: The final six digits are the serial number of the vehicle.

As you can see, there’s more to a VIN than meets the eye. This somewhat complex coding system provides you with some very important information that you must know before purchasing a car. Just like our birth certificates confirm our birthdays and place of birth, a VIN confirms that the car is legitimate. If any of the above information doesn’t match up with what a seller is telling you, back away from the deal.

Why Do I Need To Check The VIN?

You won’t always find yourself needing a VIN throughout life. However, the most important situation in which you’ll 100% need one is when purchasing a used car. A VIN number can be used to track warranty claims, if a car is stolen, insurance coverage and much more. This helps you to make an informed purchase decision without haggling the seller for more information.

To put it simply, locating the VIN will help to ensure that you’re not being involved in a scam. If you find different VIN’s for the same vehicle, you’ll know it’s time to back away. A vehicle will only ever have one VIN – and this VIN will never match with another vehicle.

How To Find Out Your VIN

Luckily, finding the VIN is incredibly simple. Read on to discover five super quick ways to find your VIN for free.

  • Look under your bonnet – the VIN is usually black or blue and located on the front of the engine block
  • Check under the windscreen
  • Inside the driver’s door pillar
  • Look through the car’s service book
  • Look through the car’s V5C logbook

If you’re reviewing a car to purchase, the VIN number should be exactly the same in every location. If there are any differences, do not purchase the car. As mentioned previously, differences in VIN’s for the same vehicle is the number one tell-tale sign of a car scam.

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller if you can take a proper look around the car to locate the VIN. If they have nothing to hide – it shouldn’t be an issue!

Help – My VIN Isn’t 17 Digits Long

If you’re sat scratching your head and wondering why your VIN isn’t 17 digits long – don’t worry, there’s likely to be a logical explanation. Firstly, triple check the VIN to make sure you’re counting it right. It’s easy to miscount codes that are a jumble of numbers and letters.

If you’ve triple checked the VIN and you’re certain it doesn’t have 17 numbers, it’s likely that the car was manufactured before 1981. VIN’s worked slightly differently back then and could range from 11 to 17 characters. While this isn’t so much of an issue, many car checking services within Just Car Checks will not be able to register a VIN from this time. Bear this in mind when purchasing older cars – if you wish to sell the car in the future, the older VIN coding system may deter potential buyers.

Other Things To Check Before Purchasing A Car

Vehicle Identification Numbers are an incredibly important part of any car. Without a VIN, there’s no telling anything about the car’s history. This can cause a huge range of problems further down the line, especially if you pay a large sum of money for the car and end up with more issues than you bargained for.

As well as a VIN, there’s another important thing that you should check before purchasing a car. Not everyone thinks to check the following, but this could once again save you from a tricky situation.

Vehicle Registration Number: The Vehicle Registration Number is another term for the number plate. While we all know that a car needs a number plate, we don’t tend to think about what these plates can tell us.

Thanks to online vehicle registration checkers, you can enter any car’s number plate to receive a huge range of information about the vehicle. From the car’s manufacturer right through to tax records and mileage, a car registration check helps you to discover things that a seller may have been keeping quiet.

Basically, a vehicle registration check provides a slightly more in depth analysis than the VIN. The VIN confirms the car is ‘legit’, and the vehicle registration number confirms that the car is safe to drive. When combined, both of these elements give you full confidence in making a purchase decision.