Where to find your car's VIN number

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

Your vehicle's identification number (VIN) is a unique combination of letters and numbers that contains important information about your car. Whether you're looking to learn about your vehicle's history, perform maintenance, or even complete paperwork (like getting a car insurance quote), knowing how to locate this code is a crucial ability for any car owner. Finding your car's VIN is typically a simple task, when you know where to look.

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What is a VIN?

A VIN is a 17-character code that serves as a fingerprint for your vehicle. It holds crucial information about the car's manufacturer, specifications, and more. No two vehicles should have the same VIN. This code is standardized across all vehicles manufactured since 1981, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Where is the VIN usually located?

The VIN can be found in several locations, making it accessible for better identification of a vehicle. Let's take a look at some of the most common places to find your car's code.

On the outside of your car

Windshield and dashboard junction: Positioned near where the windshield meets the dashboard, usually on the driver's side.

On the inside of your car

Driver's side door: VINs are often printed or engraved on the inside of the driver's side door.

Under the Hood

Engine block: VINs are often located on the engine itself or on certain components under the hood.

In documents

Car title, registration, auto insurance, service records: These official documents typically have the VIN written on them, helping identify the vehicle and for documentation.

Understanding your VIN

If looking at the characters and numbers in your code seem cryptic, it's because they are coded for specific information in throughout the 17 characters. Here's a breakdown of what information it typically contains, according to the NHTSA:

Country of origin

The first character typically represents the country where the vehicle was made. For instance, if a car was made in the United States, it would start with a '1', '4' or '5'. If it was made in Japan, it would start with a 'J'. If it was made in Germany, it would start with a 'W', and so on.

Manufacturer

The second and third characters of the VIN denote the manufacturer. Different manufacturers have unique codes assigned to them. For example, a Lincoln could have 'LN' or 'LM' while a GMC truck would have 'GT' denoted in these two spots.

Vehicle type

Characters four through eight indicate various attributes of the vehicle, including its model, body style, engine type, and more. Each manufacturer uses these characters differently.

Restraint system

The ninth character is a security check digit used to verify the validity of the VIN.

Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS)

For characters 10 to 12, these typically specify additional vehicle attributes like the model year, manufacturing plant, engine type, model, body style, and series. Most commonly:

  • The 10th character represents the vehicle's model year
  • The 11th character denotes the manufacturing plant where the vehicle was assembled
  • The 12th character often indicates specific details about the vehicle, which varies by manufacturer

Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)

The last characters (13 to 17) form the unique serial number of the vehicle, distinguishing it from other vehicles produced by the same manufacturer. These characters are specific to the individual vehicle and provide a unique identifier within the production run.

VIN FAQs