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Car VIN 101: What is a Vehicle Identification Number?

Ever wonder what the bar code on your car's dashboard means? Similar to the way in which people are assigned Social Security numbers, every vehicle also comes labeled with a unique vehicle identification number – often referred to as a "VIN." Use the guide below to understand the meaning of VINs and how to decode yours.

  • What is a VIN? A simple definition of a VIN is that it's a unique 17-digit stamp given to a vehicle by the manufacturer to differentiate it from other vehicles.
  • What is the purpose of a VIN? A car VIN provides important information about your car such as the manufacturer and engine code, and it is used to order car parts for repairs, identify stolen cars, order vehicle history reports and purchase insurance policies. If you are buying auto insurance, have your car's VIN on hand to help make the quote process run smoothly.
  • Where is a VIN located? Many VINs for cars manufactured after 1981 will be located on the left side of the dashboard near the windshield. You can also find a vehicle identification number printed on the engine, in the back wheel well, in the driver-side door jamb, or below the spare tire in your trunk.
  • How do I decode a car VIN? The first three digits of a VIN tell you the final place where the car was assembled, the manufacturer and manufacturer division. The next four tell you details about your car, like its model and engine code. The ninth digit is the "check digit," which is used to identify invalid car VINs. The last eight digits tell everything from the vehicle's model year to its manufacturing plant. This VIN decoder chart will help you quickly interpret you car’s vehicle identification number.

Your car's VIN is an important part of your vehicle. Now that you know the basics about vehicle identification numbers, you will be able to locate your car's VIN, understand its purpose and know when you will need to use it.

The provided information and safety suggestions were obtained from sources believed to be reliable and is intended for informational purposes only. Titan and its affiliates assume no liability in connection with providing it or your use of it. Your circumstances may not warrant or require some or all of the safety suggestions, and there may be additional available safety procedures that are not referenced on this webpage.

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Titan Insurance, design, superhero and Savings without the Sacrifice are service marks of THI Holdings (Delaware), Inc. Nationwide Insurance is a service mark of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Price based on March 2010 analysis of available national data for liability-only policies. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review and approval.

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