The vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique string of numeric and alphanumeric characters assigned to a vehicle that contains information to describe and identify the vehicle. The VIN number can be located on the dashboard, visible through the windshield on the driver's side, as well as on the driver side door jam.
In 1981, the 17-digit VIN was standardized by the NHTSA for vehicle destined for use in the U.S.
For more details on the history of the VIN, view our article "What is a VIN?"
VIN numbers encode much of the core vehicle information, including make, engine, body and drive type, passenger restraint system, when and where they were manufactured, and the serial number. However, some of the information can vary greatly between OEMs, especially in the vehicle descriptor positions (4-8).
See detailed descriptions on what's encoded in the VIN in this blog article.
Many VIN decoder solutions provide more vehicle information than what is encoded in the VIN by tying additional vehicle details to the VDS positions. Learn more in the section "Vehicle details you should expect from a commercial VIN decoder."
For that very reason, many VIN decoding solutions specialize in certain vehicle markets. View our blog article "The Market's effect on a VIN" to learn more
What's a VIN Squish or VIN Pattern? These two terms are actually interchangeable, both describing the portion of the VIN where core information is encoded. The VIN pattern/squish is made up of positions 1-8, 10, and 11.
These are just two of the many terms centered around VINs and vehicle data. View this blog article to become a master on VIN terminology.
There is often some confusion about what information can actually be obtained from a VIN number. For example, year, make and model
All commercially available VIN decoders will extract the information encoded in the VIN Pattern or VIN Squish (What's a VIN Squish?). However, the good ones will also pass along additional information that they know about the vehicle and its configuration. Some of these inputs may include the OEM Model number, package code, installed equipment and option codes. This is sometimes referred to as VIN explosion.
For more info, view our blog article "10 Vehicle Details You Should Expect from a VIN Decoder
Decoding a VIN can return a large amount of useful information. However, there are still many vehicle details that can't be determined from a basic decode of the VIN pattern alone. There are some vehicle details that are sometimes encoded in the VIN and others that are never encoded.
Fortunately, a commercial VIN decoder such as DataOne's is able to identify many of these details not encoded in the VIN by pulling in additional data sources.
View our blog article "10 Vehicle Details Not Decoded By the VIN Pattern" for details on each of the above bullet points and how you might obtain these important details by VIN decoding.
Here are some of the major challenges with the following vehicle segments:
For further details, check out our article "VIN Decoding Outside the Light-Duty and Passenger Vehicle Segment."
The good news is that many of the major manufacturers will still assign a VIN compatible with the ISO VIN Standard. If you are looking to decode off-road vehicle(s) in the North American market, here are some more details in this blog article.
In comparison to passenger vehicles with currently 40 manufacturers, trailers are made by hundreds of manufacturers in North America and each has numerous configurations. Commercial VIN decoding solutions for trailers are rare because of the effort required to obtain this data as well as the differences in how the VIN is used. However, they do exist!
Check out our trailer VIN decoding blog article to better understand what information can and cannot be obtained from a trailer VIN.
Aside from the obvious difference, one is free and one costs money, there is often confusion around how free VIN decoder services vs. paid VIN decoding solutions differ and why one might pay a premium. Each business has different vehicle data and VIN decoding needs, and while a free VIN decoder might do the trick for some businesses, others may have a need for a more comprehensive VIN decoding solution.
This blog article details a number of things you should consider when determining which VIN decoding solution is best for your business: