Be Your Own Detective - Check Out That Car

OK, now I have a lot of information on checking out cars - and I always forget to post about this. Now when I say cars - I mean vehicles: Trucks, cars, pickups, and yes motorcycles. So when I say car throughout this post it applies to all of these (within reason).

Sometimes you just need to check out a car that you are going to purchase. Sometimes you may want to know if that suspiciously acquired car that a neighbor has is stolen. Well, now you do not have to report it to the police - just
run a VIN Check here. It is from the same place that trains most auto-theft detectives across the United States. Car Thief

So what is a VIN? It is the Vehicle Identification Number. All cars sold in the US since around 1982 have been required to have this number. On most cars you can find the VIN on the dash by looking through the windshield from the outside on the driver's side of the car. The driver's doorpost or door will also have the VIN displayed. On new cars you will find little stickers all over with the VIN.
VIN Location
As a cop I used to get sick of hearing other cops say "VIN Number." The N is for number! Anyways, back to what I was saying.

Each digit in the number means something significant from the country of manufacture to automaker to year model and the actual serial number.

You don't have to be concerned with all 17 characters in a vehicle's VIN Number. For your convenience I will only speak about the key ones.
The first three characters signify the make of the car, usually as follows: The first character of your VIN represents the country of manufacture 1 = USA J = Japan Y = Finland, Sweden2 = Canada K = Korea3 = Mexico W = Germany

The second character represents the manufacturer or make of the vehicle, as follows: A = Alfa Romeo, B = Dodge, C = Chrysler, D = Daihatsu, E = Eagle, F= Ford/Eagle, G = All General Motors vehicles (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn)H = Honda/Acura, J= Jeep, L = Lincoln, M = Mitsubishi, N = Nissan/Infiniti, P = Plymouth, S = Subaru, T = Toyota/Lexus, V = Volkswagen. Note that the VIN Numbers tell you who really makes what - Like Nissan makes Infinity and Toyota makes Lexus, etc.
Other makes use a 3-character combination: TRU/WAU = Audi, 4US/WBA/WBS = BMW, 2HM/KMH = Hyundai, SAJ = Jaguar, SAL = Land Rover, 1YV/JM1 = Mazda, WDB = Mercedes-Benz, VF3 = Peugeot,WP0 = Porsche, YK1/YS3 = Saab, YV1=Volvo, 8 = Isuzu

The fourth character is the type of restraint system or brake type: Example: R represents hydraulic brakes

The fifth, sixth & seventh characters are the car line, series and body style. These are obviously different for each make (manufacturer).

The eighth character is a description of the engine: This will be different for all makes as well If it is a Ford and character 8 is a W: W represents a 4.6 liter V-8 engine

The tenth character represents the year of the car. Pay close attention to this one: B = 1981 F = 1985 K = 1989 P = 1993 V = 1997 C = 1982 G = 1986 L = 1990 R = 1994 W = 1998 D = 1983 H = 1987 M = 1991 S = 1995 X = 1999 E = 1984 J = 1988 N = 1992 T = 1996 Y = 2000 1 = 2001 2 = 2002 3 = 2003 ... I am not sure what they will do for next year.

Of course there are plenty of paid services like CARFAX and the like that will give you the history of the car. Nearly all car sales places will give you a CARFAX report on the car you are interested in. So get them to run it if the car is on a lot.

Whatever you do concerning vehicle checks - Be Safe!!


  1. Hi
    The VIN information is very interesting. I learned something new today. I will this link back you for my Car specific articles.
    Thanks for the info
    Sheila - ARMY Wife

  2. Shiela-
    Thanks for stopping by. Now I have to check out your stuff.

  3. I'd recommend not just to verify the VIN but also make sure it's not faked or altered. This is a very common practice - a stolen car may be given a "clean" VIN stolen from another car (in many cases, you can easily see it from outside). Make sure there are no scratches, molding, signs of printing or filing or paint around or on the VIN. Checking wrong VIN makes no sense...


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