Can I look up my vehicle specs by VIN number?

Aivaras Grigelevičius

Aivaras Grigelevičius

When searching for the next vehicle, buyers tend to confuse themselves with many different model versions that may look the same but are, in reality, very different. How come?

The most common and basic details about vehicle specifications include the type of body, the type of fuel, the size of the engine, and the type of transmission. However, every vehicle identification number (VIN) contains detailed vehicle data, which reveals specific information. This includes what kind of equipment it has, what market it was manufactured for, or whether the car was stolen several years ago.

So how you can use VIN to learn more about a vehicle you're about to buy?

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How to identify vehicle specifications by VIN number?

VIN numbers have been assigned for virtually every vehicle worldwide over the past several decades. When these vehicle identification numbers became the universal global standard in the early 1980s, they helped buyers in at least several ways.

For example, a vehicle identification number helps reduce the risk of buying a motor vehicle with a falsified millage or a theft record. Furthermore, advancements in VIN decoding allowed buyers to access vehicle details at any time of day without needing to scroll through numerous databases. Instead, buyers can find the vehicle's identification number, input the 17-digit number into a VIN decoder tool, and push the decode button.

Specs section in carVertical's vehicle history report
carVertical vehicle history report

Where can I find the VIN number?

The easiest way to find the vehicle's VIN number is to look at the registration or insurance documents. However, the vehicle identification number also appears on the vehicles themselves.

VIN number location on the vehicle
VIN number location

If you have a motorcycle, the VIN should be located in the following places:

  • On the right side of the frame
  • On the front downtube
  • The space between the cylinder and the top mount bolt
  • Near the headstock (steering neck)
  • On the bottom of the engine.

If you have a car – SUV, hatchback, or any other passenger vehicle – you'll likely find its VIN number here:

  • On the driver's side of the dashboard (seen behind the windshield from outside)
  • On the driver's door frame
  • On the engine bay frame
  • Behind the spare tire
  • In the passenger footwell

Which vehicle specs can be identified?

Vehicles in manufacturing plant are produced based on specific buyer configurations or statistics that help manufacturers maximize their chances of selling the vehicle.

Due to the extremely high number of combinations of body color, rims, equipment, engines, and gearboxes, vehicle manufacturers link this information to the vehicle identification number, which, once decoded, gives you detailed information on the vehicle specs.

Here’s a list of vehicle spec categories that can typically be identified:

  • Make, model, model year and country of origin
  • Engine displacement and transmission type
  • Standard and optional mechanical components
  • Standard and optional equipment
  • Exterior and interior colors
  • Safety equipment

Which specs can't be identified by VIN and why?

Traditionally, vehicle identification numbers have been used to keep track of mileage rollbacks, accidents, and other events related to its ownership. However, even the most advanced VIN decoder cannot reveal certain types of data.

Vehicle manufacturers tend to safeguard OEM build data, also known as Monroney label stickers, which are mandatory for all new cars in the United States. These labels contain specific information about the vehicle, including the following:

  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP)
  • Warranties
  • Fuel economy ratings

What other information does the VIN report provide?

Information provided in a vehicle history report
Information from vehicle history report

Understanding the correct specifications of a vehicle helps one gain a better understanding of the vehicle in question. However, a history report will allow a more detailed evaluation of the vehicle and reduce the risk of purchasing one at a suspiciously low price.

A VIN lookup provides access to theft records from law enforcement agencies, registration and inspection dates, vehicle title information, mileage records, and information about specific model issues and vehicle damage.

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Aivaras Grigelevičius

Article by

Aivaras Grigelevičius

Aivaras has been excited about cars since he was a little kid. Later, this passion for drivable objects (and everything that surrounds them) grew into work as an automotive journalist. Since then, Aivaras has written for several different magazines, covering anything with an accelerator pedal. He has a soft spot for cars with an Alfa Romeo badge.