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The Importance of VINs for Car Buyers in 2024

Regardless of models and manufacturers, all cars sold in the USA have their specific method of identification. A vehicle identification number contains more information than you may suppose. This string of characters looks random or cryptic, but it can tell you a lot about car history and specifications — details essential for any buyer.

Companies providing reports by VINs are useful for buyers and sellers of second-hand automobiles. Before purchasing any used car, make sure the seller’s information is verifiable. Thanks to, this is easier to do than ever. All you need is internet access and the unique identifier found in the car.

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Basics of the Search

What does the identifier look like? The rules of coding are the same across the country. Each sequence is unique, composed of letters and numbers (excluding I, O and Z). The length must be 17 characters, except for the two cases described below.

The rules for coding were introduced in 1980. Compliance is overseen by the US National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, which established the rules. The code may look different due to one of the following reasons:

  1. The car was manufactured before 1980;
  2. The car is one of Slide-ins, Truck Campers, Cab-overs, or a few other motorhome models, which have serial numbers by law.

Where the Code is Printed

Every vehicle must have its VIN. This string of characters is typically found under the windshield on the driver’s side. In any case, it is printed on parts that may not be removed. This guarantees that the owner may not change the body without notices in the registration card.

If the body and the chassis came from different manufacturers, you are likely to see two identifiers. This is perfectly normal, as one of them refers to the parts and the other one to the body.

In all other cases, if you spot unacceptable letters or wrong length, you have a valid reason for terminating the purchase procedures. The auto may have been stolen, repossessed, etc. Such facts related to car history are then revealed through analysis online. Another service deciphers the data contained in the code.

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How to Do the Checkup

Websites dedicated to such examination offer two types of searches. For instance, on the mentioned platform, users may run either VIN decoder or VIN check. Internet-based services are convenient and accessible to anyone. Here are the differences between the two options.

1. Decoder

As the term suggests, by entering the identifier you can view the specifications. The service is rendered free of charge. The characters in the strings are deciphers, revealing details from the manufacturer to the type of brakes and chassis. Here is the typical list:

  • the producer;
  • the brakes type;
  • the chassis type;
  • the model code;
  • the body type;
  • special figure that prevents changes to the sequence;
  • the model year;
  • place of production.

The structure of a VIN is no secret, and anyone can try deciphering it on their own. However, the procedure is tiresome and time-consuming. If you are thinking of purchasing an automobile, it is best to rely on accurate reports. Besides, you may obtain it free of charge.

2. Check

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Vital events in the life of any vehicle are contained in the second type of vehicle history report. Has the car ever been damaged? Has it been involved in accidents? Are the readings on its odometer correct? These questions may be easily answered with the help of the service.

Although the full-scale format is paid, the free version may suffice. For instance, if you are choosing between several cars, a brief comparison of vehicle history records could help you make a decision. However, for an in-depth look, it is worth considering the most detailed information.

Here are the facts contained in any report of this nature. As you will see, the data is crucial for any cautious buyer. Establish if your seller’s claims have any relation to the truth, specifically concerning:

3. Accidents

Has the vehicle been involved in a crash? This is something dishonest sellers could hide. Naturally, any crashes or incidents could result in damages that should bring the price down. Do not fall victim to fraud.

4. Odometer

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Odometer readings may also affect the perceived value. If the results show inconsistencies, this means the owner has probably manipulated the values.

5. Faults

Any production flaws will be immediately visible in the report. The same applies to cases of model withdrawal. Luckily, the service allows you to verify the readings easily.

6. Lien & Repossession

Are you sure the car is actually possessed by the seller? What if it serves as loan collateral? The service is a surefire way to guarantee you will not be paying for an auto you cannot own.

7. Theft & Recovery

Any cases of theft will be immediately reflected in the records. This is perhaps the easiest way to spot such violations. It is vital to avoid paying for a stolen car. If you see suspicious information, report it to the local police.

8. Flood, Hail and Fire Damage

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Severe floods and other natural disasters may cause damage to any vehicle. Whatever happens, it will be noted in the history records. If the car has been negatively affected by harsh weather or fire, such facts will be immediately obvious.

9. Specifications

This part covers the general specifications of the car. Any alterations of its color of the body are shown. This is something any buyer must be aware of.

The Takeaway

Any inconsistencies revealed in the process can affect the safety of the automobile you intend to buy. Their analysis is therefore crucial. Armed with the data, a potential buyer may either refuse for concluding the deal or have grounds for bargaining with the seller.

On the other hand, for sellers, providing potential buyers with detailed information on the vehicles is wise. This points to honesty and willingness to have a transparent sale. Hence, a digital VIN lookup is useful for both parties.

About Jordana Frazier