Rock Talk

What Car VINs Mean

Last updated on November 25, 2019 at 11:21 am

When you renew your car registration or purchase auto insurance, you are probably asked for your VIN number. It can be a struggle to write down or remember this long, cumbersome number. This number isn’t devised simply to frustrate you. Those numbers and letters actually mean something. We’ve put together some basic information to help you understand what car VINs mean.

Deciphering the VIN

VIN, according to Edmunds, stands for Vehicle Identification Number. In reality, the VIN is more than just a random set of digits. It can help you identify the manufacturer of the car, what size the engine is and other important details. The VIN is used for obtaining insurance, selling the vehicle and for determining if a car has been recalled or requires certain types of maintenance.

The Basics

The VIN was first used in 1954 and was given a standardized format in 1981. Today’s VIN is a 17-digit letter and number combination. It does not use the letters I O or Q (to avoid confusion with the digits 0 and 1).

Translating a VIN

From the year 1981 on, the first three digits of the VIN are identifying codes for manufacturers. This portion of the code allows you to determine in what country a car was produced. The next six digits are the vehicle descriptor section. These numbers give necessary information about the vehicle. The final eight digits are the vehicle identifier selection—including model year, plant code and production number. Putting all of this information together creates a unique VIN for each car. No two cars have the same number.

By following up on its unique VIN, it is easy for you to track your car’s history — which is important for sales and insurance purposes. So, next time you call Plymouth Rock or speak with your insurance agent to renew your coverage, try not to be frustrated by having to repeat that long 17-digit VIN number. This number helps you, the government and your insurer make sure every detail of your car is properly documented and recorded.

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