VIN Lookup: Best Free & Paid VIN Checks

The VIN check below is FREE, after you receive it on the next page, you can optionally upgrade to purchase the more detailed vehicle history report. No obligation, satisfaction guaranteed.

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VIN Lookups: Everything You Need to Know!

Hey there, I’m Robby – your friendly certified mechanic with over 20 years of wrenching experience. If it’s got wheels, I can fix it! Today, I want to help you unlock the secrets hidden behind your car’s VIN number.

As a mechanic, I use VINs daily to dig up key details about vehicles people bring into my shop. And you can learn to decode VINs too to discover useful facts about any car, truck or motorcycle.

In this guide, I’ll explain what a VIN is, where to find it, and how to use free and paid vehicle history reports to translate the VIN into model specs, recall info, accident history, thefts, flood damages and more. You’ll be a VIN decoding expert by the time we’re done!

Knowing how to research a VIN is crucial for making smart used car purchases and getting repairs done right the first time. So grab your favorite beverage and let’s get rolling! This Ol’ Dog is gonna teach you some new tricks about unlocking your ride’s VIN.

What is a VIN?

The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is like a car’s fingerprint or social security number. It is a unique 17-character code composed of numbers and capital letters that identifies every vehicle.

Manufacturers assign each car a VIN when it is built. No two vehicles can share the same VIN, so it allows you to pinpoint the history and specifics of any individual car.

VINs are standardized across all makes and models starting in 1981 in the US. Prior to 1981, VINs varied more in format. All street-legal vehicles after 1981 have 17-character VINs while earlier models may have fewer characters.

How Do You Find the VIN?

How to Find the VIN number?

Locating the VIN is quick and easy in most vehicles:

  • On the dashboard: Look through the windshield on the driver’s side where it meets the dashboard. This is the most common VIN location.
  • Door jamb: Open the driver’s door and check the area where the door latches. Manufacturers often place it here too.
  • Title or registration: If you can’t find it on the car, check the title, registration or insurance documents.
  • Motorcycles: Check the steering neck, engine, or frame for the VIN number.
  • Trailers/RVs: Look on the front left side.

Consult your owner’s manual for other potential VIN locations if none of the above spots work.

How to Decode a VIN

Vin Decoder - how to decode a vin number

Now that you know where to find the VIN, let’s go over how to decode it. Here is the basic structure:

The first 3 digits are the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) specifying the vehicle’s country of origin, make, and type.

Digits 4-8 cover the specific vehicle attributes like model, body style, engine size, and safety features. This is the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS).

The 9th digit is a mathematical check digit used to detect invalid VINs.

The 10th digit denotes the model year.

The 11th digit identifies the manufacturing plant.

Digits 12-17 contain the sequential production number of the vehicle as it rolled off the assembly line. This is the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS).

Let’s look at a sample VIN to see how you can decode the details:


1: Made in the U.S.

F: Ford Motor Company

T: Pickup truck

FW: F-150 model

1: Standard cab with manual transmission

C: Supercrew cab with 5.5ft box

T: 3.5L V6 twin-turbo Ecoboost engine

5: Check digit

D: 2013 model year

F: Dearborn, Michigan USA plant

C10312: 10312th F-150 built at this plant for 2013

So in summary, this is a 2013 Ford F-150 FX2 SuperCrew with the 3.5L turbo V6 built in Dearborn, MI. The full VIN reveals a wealth of useful specifics.

Why Decode the VIN?

Why We Are the Best VIN Lookup Service

There are many great reasons to lookup any vehicle’s VIN. As a professional auto technician, I routinely decode VINs to verify details as I service vehicles. But VIN lookup services are also extremely helpful for these use cases:

  • Buyers– Research a car’s background before purchasing it. Look for accidents, ownership history and other red flags.
  • Sellers– Provide full transparency to buyers. Lookup your VIN to share your car’s history and confirm specs.
  • Owners– Lookup your VIN for free to check for open recalls, factory specs, and service history.
  • Insurance– Confirm your vehicle’s year, make and model match policy documents.
  • Law Enforcement– Check VINs of stolen or abandoned vehicles.

The VIN gives you an information edge since it precisely identifies that specific car. Decode any VIN for insights you can’t find elsewhere.

Free VIN Lookup Tools

Many websites let you lookup VINs for free. I recommend starting with these excellent free VIN check options:

  • NHTSA– Lookup manufacturer details and safety recalls. Visit their official site here.
  •– Easy VIN decoder plus helpful DMV resources. Visit their official site here.
  • Mechanic Answer – That’s right we offer free VIN checks on this page, and you can choose to upgrade to the paid version later if you wish.

While these free VIN lookups provide useful tidbits, I always recommend buyers invest in a full vehicle history report with ourselves or another trusted service like the ones listed below. To buy a vehicle without a proper vehicle history report is like gambling with the same amount of money. You have no idea if the car is a good buy, or if you’re buying a useless lemon with a hidden history, without a VIN report, it’s just the roll of the dice that you get. Why that the risk? Especially when paid VIN reports are so cheap.

Paid VIN Reports

Ford VIN Lookup
Example of a paid Ford VIN Check

Free VIN checks give you a snapshot but paid reports from sources like us at Mechanc Answer,  as well as Bumper and VINCheckup, deliver complete vehicle histories including:

  • Accidents and damage
  • Number of owners
  • Service and repair history
  • Title checks including salvage or junk history
  • Prior registrations and uses
  • Mileage inconsistencies and odometer rollbacks
  • Open recalls and safety issues
  • Flood damage events

These insights are invaluable when buying a used car. A full VIN report protects you from buying a vehicle with hidden problems. I run a Carfax style VIN report on every car I purchase.

The Best Paid VIN Reports Online & Prices

  • EpicVIN– Check for recalls, flood damage, accidents, and odometer rollback for around $15. Visit their official site here.
  • Bumper – Bulk orders, and license plate lookups. You can get a trial of their service with 50 detailed VIN reports in a month for around $15. Visit their official site here.
  • VINCheckup – Super detailed VIN reports around $15. Visit their official site here.
  • VINAudit – A simple report with the essentials, around $10. Visit their official site here.
  • Mechanic Answer – We offer the most detailed free and paid VIN reports, at a fraction of the price of others. Get a free quote by adding your VIN number in the form on this page.

VIN Decoder Reference Tables

Let’s explore some VIN decoder reference tables to help you identify the country of origin, make, model year, and other data encoded in each vehicle identification number:

Country of Origin Codes

A-HAfrica (AA-AH = South Africa)
1,4,5United States
S-ZEurope (J = Germany, S = UK, V = Spain, Z = Italy)

Model Year Codes


Makes Codes

The make can be determined from the WMI’s 2nd digit:

LLand Rover

And many more – refer to a complete WMI list for all manufacturer codes.

How I Use My Expertise to Decode VINs

With over 20 years as a professional mechanic, I have decoded thousands of VINs to unlock hidden insights about vehicles. Here is my step-by-step process:

As soon as I receive a vehicle service request, I start by recording the full 17-character VIN from the dash or door sticker.

Next, I lookup that VIN here on Mechanic Answer, to review the complete vehicle history report and flag any issues. This tells me if the car was in accident, registered out-of-state, reported as stolen, insurance claimed, written off, has a rebuilt title, and much more.

From the VIN report I receive, I decode the WMI and VDS sections to identify the vehicle’s country of origin, make, model, engine size and features. This helps me prepare the correct parts and procedures for servicing it, and the report displays the information in a simple format for me.

If the customer needs help ordering parts or determining their car’s factory equipment, I use my VIN report to assist them. I also explain to them how to DIY a VIN lookup.

For any used car I purchase, I follow the same process to uncover its history and technical details before buying. I never skip checking the VIN!

Tips for Buying a Used Car

Buying a Used Car: The Role of VIN Lookup

Since I decode VINs daily in my mechanic work, here are my top tips for using VIN checks to avoid issues when buying a used vehicle:

  • Start by getting the full 17-digit VIN from the seller, if not already listed in the ad.
  • Lookup that VIN through us or another vehicle history service. Review accident history, open recalls, number of owners and other details.
  • Cross-reference the VIN’s model data against the seller’s spec claims. This verifies engine size, options, trim package etc.
  • Test drive the car and also scan for VIN stickers. Make sure they all match. Watch for tampered or missing VIN tags which may indicate fraud.
  • On the test drive, use an OBD-II scanner tool to check for error codes and clear any check engine lights before purchase. The VIN will be coded into these as well.
  • If anything seems suspicious, request documentation like the title or registration and compare the VIN on them too.

Buying used vehicles is always a risk, but following these VIN verification steps helps minimize the chance of buying a lemon. I use Mechanic Answer and conduct multi-point VIN checks on every used car purchase.

Why Mechanic Answer is the Best VIN Lookup Service

How to Do a VIN Lookup

Now that you know the importance of vehicle history reports, I recommend using our service for its affordably priced and thorough VIN searches.

As an auto technician, I rely on these VIN checks daily, for their depth of detail and easy website interface. The full Carfax style VIN reports provided are the gold standard – giving me peace of mind about a car’s background.

Our service also offers unlimited free VIN checks for the basics like year, make, model, and specs. Their free tool is handy for a quick lookup to identify a vehicle and it’s

For both my professional mechanic business and personal used car purchases, I choose the VIN checks here on Mechanic Answer every time. Our VIN reports play a crucial role in finding issues and making smart buying decisions. I encourage all drivers to decode their VINs with Mechanic Answer as well!

The Bottom Line

I hope this complete guide gives you confidence for looking up any VIN number. By following the steps I outlined, you can decode the full history and specifications for any vehicle. Remember these key points:

  • Find the 17-digit VIN on the dash, door or title
  • Use a free online VIN check tool like ours for quick basics
  • Decode the WMI, VDS and VIS sections to identify origins, attributes and more
  • Cross-check VINs when buying used to catch discrepancies
  • Consider a paid VIN report with Mechanic Answer for the complete vehicle history.

Searching any VIN provides empowering details to make smart purchase choices. Let me know if you have any mechanic questions or about decoding or looking up vehicle identification numbers!

Robby Munroe

Robby Munroe

Robby Munroe has worked as a licensed mechanic for more than 20 years. He started off as a mechanic at a small business and then became independent. Robby's primary interest, apart from doing his actual job, has always been imparting wisdom to others and writing helpful blog articles.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) lookup provides detailed information about a vehicle’s history, including accidents, ownership, recalls, and much more. It’s an essential tool for anyone considering purchasing a used car. For a comprehensive VIN lookup, consider using our trusted service for vehicle history reports.

To look up your car’s VIN, first locate the number on your vehicle. It’s often found on the driver’s side dashboard, visible through the windshield, or inside the driver’s side door frame. Once you have the VIN, enter it on a reliable website like ours to get a detailed vehicle history report.

While many sites offer free vehicle history checks, it’s essential to choose a reliable source. We provide free and paid comprehensive vehicle history reports that can give you peace of mind when purchasing a used car.

A vehicle history report provides detailed information about a car’s past, including accidents, ownership changes, and potential recalls. Trusted websites like ours offer comprehensive vehicle history reports to help you make informed decisions about used car purchases.

Both Vincheckup and Carfax provide valuable insights into a vehicle’s history. However, many users find Vincheckup to be a reliable and more cost-effective alternative to Carfax, offering detailed reports to assist in making informed purchasing decisions.

Yes, you can check your VIN online. Websites like ours allow you to enter your VIN and receive a detailed vehicle history report, helping you understand the car’s past and any potential issues.

While you can Google a VIN number, it’s recommended to use specialized websites like ours to get accurate and detailed vehicle history reports, ensuring you receive the most up to date, detailed and  reliable information.

Yes, a VIN number can provide specific details about a vehicle, including its make, model, engine type, and more. For a detailed breakdown of car specs from a VIN number, use our free VIN decoder. 

Several sites offer vehicle history reports, but ours stands out for it’s comprehensive and reliable reports. It’s the go-to source for anyone looking to understand a vehicle’s past before making a purchase.

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Where Can I Find My VIN?

Your vehicle’s unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be found on the title document, the vehicle registration, and the insurance policy. It is a series letters and numbers like this as example: WAUGC0896JA235262. The VIN can also be located on the following locations on the vehicle itself:

how to find VIN on vehicle

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