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How to Find Features With a VIN Number

by Matt Browning

A car's vehicle identification number---or VIN---is a 17-digit string of coded characters that car manufacturers stamp under the lower driver's side corner of the windshield on every car they make. Each letter or number in your car's VIN identifies the car's make, model, features, year of manufacture and engine type. Consumer car portals like Edmunds and Carfax emphasize that decoding a VIN is critical when purchasing a car, although decoding can be tricky since each letter or number represents a different feature. You can use three types of resources to find features with a VIN.

Use automobile sales resources. Resources like Pronto or Carfax can decode your car's VIN to verify the car's features. Pronto offers an instant VIN decoder---type in your car's VIN, and with a few mouse clicks, you receive a list of the car's identifying features. Pricing guides like the National Automobile Dealers Association guides also offer resources to help you decode or check a car's VIN to verify its features as part of the purchase process.

Check with a dealer or a local service shop. Car dealers and car mechanics have reference materials that help them decode the five VIN digits that describe the car's features. Contact your local mechanic or dealer and ask for help in decoding the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth digits in your car's VIN.

Run a consumer report. Carfax, Edmunds and Autocheck offer car history reports, where you can pay a fee, submit your car's VIN and receive a full report of the car's features plus sales and repair history. Fees range from as little as $29 to as much as $60 for these consumer information organizations to run a report for you, but you will receive a list of your car's features instantly in your email inbox.

About the Author

Matt Browning has been writing about health, science, food and travel since 1990. His career has spanned advocacy, medical communications and public relations and his stories have won awards from the Virginia Press Association. Browning earned a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from the University of Virginia.

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