Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Former Farmers Insurance CSR

UPDATED: Oct 30, 2020

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A VIN number is a Vehicle Identification Number and it’s a unique serial number assigned to individual vehicles to enable their identification particularly in the case of loss or theft, but also for legal purposes when insuring a vehicle or importing/exporting a car.VIN

The vehicle identification number was originally used in 1954 but until 1981 there was no universal standard for VIN numbers and manufacturers systems varied widely. In 1981 in the United States a body called the National Highway Safety Administration decided to standardize the format of vehicle identification numbers.

Those requirements are still in use today and essentially require each VIN number to be 17 characters long (including both alpha and numeric characters) and they may not include the letters I, O or Q (to avoid any possible confusion with the digits 1 and 0),

The standard used in the United States for VIN number registration is known as the FMVSS 115 Part 64, and then there are three others in common usage in the rest of the world. In Europe, there’s the ISO standard 3779, and much of the rest of the world uses this or variant on the theme known as SAE J583 and in Australia they use ADR 61/2 which also very similar to the ISO standard.

In North America a manufacturer who makes more than 500 vehicles a year will issue VIN numbers that enable the identification of the following attributes associated with a car; the manufacturer themselves, specific vehicle attributes, a “check digit”, the model year, the plant it was made in and a unique sequential identifier.

The VIN number doesn’t just help owners in the event of the theft or loss of their vehicle (in terms of making it easier to recover). It also assists potential owners to identify branded vehicles (authenticating the vehicle identification number allows the buyer to verify that the vehicle is actually what it is claimed to be) and to avoid purchasing faulty cars or insurance write-offs (though this is less common in the United States where many states require insurance write-offs (total losses) to be destroyed by a licensed auto yard.

The vehicle identification number system is designed to protect vehicle owners from being the victims of fraud or misrepresentation. As well as allowing insurance companies and government agencies to track specific vehicles and risks associated with them.

Additional VIN Definitions

  • WikipediaA Vehicle Identification Number, commonly abbreviated to VIN, is a unique code including a serial number, used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds as defined in ISO 3833…
  • HowStuffWorksVehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) are unique identification sequences on every car manufactured in the United States and many other countries. These numbers are sort of like a fingerprint for a car…
  • Answer FInancial – This is a unique number given to a vehicle by the manufacturer that can help the insurance company double-check certain characteristics of your vehicle, which affect the premium…