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How to Read a Motorcycle VIN Number

by Josh Baum

All street-legal motorcycles have unique 17-digit numbers called vehicle identification numbers (VINs). If you know a motorcycle's VIN, you can find the original factory specs, the motorcycle's ownership and accident history, and other information. You must first locate the VIN plate, then record the number and, finally, search for information linked to that VIN using a reputable and appropriate service.

Steering head of a motorcycle

Examine all sides of the steering head of the motorcycle and look for a metal plate with information printed or engraved on it.

Write down the 17-digit VIN.

Read the first three numbers, which identify the manufacturer; all motorcycles of the same make should have the same first three digits.

Read the next six digits, which indicate specific characteristics of the motorcycle.

Read the last eight digits, which form an identification number unique to your motorcycle.

Look up the VIN online using a VIN search specific to motorcycles (see Resources).


  • Look up the VIN of any motorcycle you're considering buying before you make the decision to purchase it. You may discover evidence of a problem or accident.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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