Department of Motor Vehicles Billings MT

The VIN number is based on a standardized code set by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Each VIN consists of seventeen characters, with each character in the VIN representing a different aspect of the vehicle.

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The VIN Number

The VIN Number By Brian Alexander, Content Editor

What Is A VIN?
Most vehicle owners have had to reference their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at some point or another. Whether for the purpose of reporting insurance, registering a new car, requesting a vehicle history report or even as something as simple as registering for a parking pass; auto owners will inevitably encounter the long, confusing string of numbers and letters that comprise the VIN code.

So what exactly is a VIN number?

A VIN number is a set of alphanumeric characters that identifies an individual vehicle through use of a standardized system set forth by the Department of Transportation and the International Organization for Standardization.

Simply put, a car's VIN number is like a human's DNA - it follows a specific code, and is entirely unique to each vehicle.

The VIN system represents the first attempt at standardizing automobile identification on a global level. A VIN consists of a combination of seventeen characters which identify the make, model and year of the vehicle, as well as more in-depth details such as engine type, vehicle restraint system and vehicle weight. While the most common application is found in passenger vehicles, VIN numbers are used for all road-going vehicles including trucks, trailers, busses and motorcycles.

Typically, VIN numbers can be found on the driver's side dash as well as on the engine block, though it is not uncommon to find them in other places such as the passenger door frame, vehicle firewall or radiator support bracket.

How Does It Work?
VIN numbers are relatively complex. After all, they contain a lot of information - vehicle make, model, year, type, body style and safety systems, just to name a few - in just seventeen short characters. Reading a VIN accurately requires in-depth knowledge of make-specific codes as well as a complete understanding of the VIN code itself.

The VIN number is based on a standardized code set by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Each VIN consists of seventeen characters, with each character in the VIN representing a different aspect of the vehicle. For example, the first character in the VIN number represents the vehicle's country of origin; the second represents the vehicle manufacturer , and so on.

While it may seem possible for two vehicles of identical make, model, body style, engine and trim to receive identical VIN numbers, the system accounts for this. Identical vehicles rely on the manufacturer's serial number - the sequential order in which they were produced - to differentiate them.

Due to each car's unique VIN identification, anyone can track the history of any individual vehicle on the road. Accidents, thefts, recalls and vehicle code violations are all linked to VIN numbers, and thus can be pulled up via a vehicle history report . Vehicle history reports have become an important part of car shopping with...

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