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Rebuilt Title means that the vehicle was seriously damaged. Buy only if you checked VIN history and know what exactly happened. Be cautious about airbag deployment in the history!

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How to Decode the VIN

The Vehicle Identification Number is a unique code that every car has. It's kind of like a car's fingerprint - no two VINs are the same. The VIN wasn't always as standardized as it is today. Before 1981, there was no accepted standard for these numbers, so different manufacturers used different formats. Around 40 years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized the format to a 17-character VIN we see today, which does not include the letters I (i), O (o), or Q (q) to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0.

The VIN consists of several parts, and each part gives you specific information about the vehicle.

The first character encodes where your car was built. This character, a number or a letter, stands for the country of manufacture. For instance, if it starts with a 1, 4, or 5, that means the car was made in the U.S.

The second character represents the manufacturer. For example, "A" stands for Audi, "B" for BMW, "H" for Honda, and so on. The third one tells you the vehicle type or manufacturing division.

Characters 4 through 8 are the Vehicle Descriptor Section. This part provides details about the model, the body type, the engine code, etc. This is where the magic happens and you can find out a lot about the specific attributes of your car.

The 9th character is a check digit. This is a complex calculation that the U.S. Department of Transportation uses to validate the VIN. This is partcularly important in spotting faked VINs.

The tenth character represents the model year. It's a letter from B to Y (skipping a few letters) for the years 1981-2000, then it switched to numbers for 2001-2009, and starting from 2010, it's back to letters again, starting from A.

The 11th character indicates which plant assembled the car. Each automaker has its own set of plant codes.

Finally, characters 12 through 17 are the Vehicle Identification Section. These give you the production sequence number, or in simpler terms, it's the number that tells you what order the car came off the assembly line.

Why Is Decoding VIN So Imporant?

VIN decoding is important for used car buyers and it's not just because you want to know as much vehicle specs as possible. The reason is explained below.

In fact, in most cases you do VIN decoding before you buy a VIN history report, even if you are unaware of that, and then the VIN is looked up the history database. The VINs for widespread makes and standart vehicle types like cars, SUVs, trucks, even most motorcycles should be decoded without any trouble, this is important! For instance, if the VIN for a Ford Focus cannot be decoded and you keep getting a "VIN is invalid" message this either means that it was copied incorrectly (which can be fixed) or the VIN might be faked on a stolen or seriously damaged vehicle in order to conceal a salvage or junk title by changing just 1 character that suits most. The reason for such a "crude work" might be leaving as little visible trace of tampering as possible, or the criminals didn't care or couldn't do back calculation in order to figure out the right check digit. Please note that in such cases some vehicle history companies will say "the VIN was not found", not that it was invalid, which is misleading. For this reason absense of the VIN in their database does not mean that it has a clean history, it may also mean that it's invalid. Although there are cases with imported and exported popular models (for different purposes) when their valid VINs are not found in history databases but at least those VINs decode without any problem. In any case, the inabilty to decode the VIN or absence in the database does not mean that it has a clean history, but decoding failure should raise maximum concern. You should check other decoders to make sure the VIN is not invalid in the first place. That is normal for classic cars or model yeara before 1981. By the way, some short VIN numbers can be found in NMVTIS database with brief history data, although they won't decode and won't reveal any specs, but never in CARFAX or Autocheck datanases.

Now, when might a vehicle have a non-standard VIN? It's rare, but it can happen. Some trailers and homemade vehicles like kit cars, reassembled vehicles might not have a standard VIN. In these cases, a special process is used to assign them a VIN. However, one may come across trouble while accessing a history report for such VINs. As said above, a typical vehicle history check starts with decoding but a standart decoder won't be able to decode such a number and the VIN will be rejected as invalid.

In addiditon, some traiers, RVs and motorhomes coming in their original configuration and with the original VIN may not be encoded. As a rule, the failure is typical for CARFAX, which Autocheck has more trailer VINs in their database.

The vehicle history reports are also atteched to the VIN. There are cases when some major components come from other vehicles. However, in most cases the unibody or frame that has the VIN etched on it saying is "that vehicle". A more complicated case is the case with clipped cars where 2 halves come from different vehicles.

Welcome to rebuilt vehicle information portal. Please, choose the information you need.

I want to:

Rebuilt Title means that the vehicle was seriously damaged. Buy only if you checked VIN history and know what exactly happened. Be cautious about airbag deployment in the history!

Check VIN Now Start VIN Check

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