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How to Look Up a VIN for Features

by Richard Asmus

In a 17-character VIN, the first three numbers identify the country, manufacturer and make. The next five characters use a code set up by the manufacturer to identify the features of the vehicle. Every vehicle manufactured since 1981 has a VIN, including cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles and ATVs. Look for the VIN on the dashboard of a car or truck on a tag near the windshield on the driver's side. You can also find it on official paperwork for your vehicle, such as a bill of sale, title, registration or insurance policy. Decode the VIN online, either for free or for a slight charge for more detail.

Go to Enter the 17 characters exactly as they appear on your vehicle or papers. Use capital letters. Click on "Decode," then scroll down on the next screen to read your vehicle's features.

Decode the VIN of a vehicle manufactured between 1981 and 2003 at the reference at Click on each link to decode the digits. Scroll down and click on your vehicle manufacturer's logo link for its features.

Go to the The Unofficial DMV Guide site (see Resources) and enter the 17 digits into the space marked "Enter a VIN Here." Click on "Search" and wait for a basic report of your vehicle's features. This site also offers a vehicle history report for sale, but you don't have to buy it.

Go to the reference for VINquery (see Resources) and enter your VIN in the space marked "Enter a VIN." Click "Go" and select a level of report you wish to purchase.


  • Do not confuse the numbers "1" or "0" with letters "I," "O" or "Q." VINs don't use those letters, but they do use the numbers.

About the Author

Richard Asmus was a writer and producer of television commercials in Phoenix, Arizona, and now is retired in Peru. After founding a small telecommunications engineering corporation and visiting 37 countries, Asmus studied broadcasting at Arizona State University and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Brooklyn College in New York.

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