Every car that is registered in Britain is required to have a unique and stamped-in vehicle identification number (or VIN for short). This is not to be confused with the licence plate, which every car should display at the front and rear of the exterior.
Here we explain what exactly the vehicle identification number is and how it affects you and other motorists.
What is a VIN?
The vehicle identification number essentially serves as a car’s fingerprint. Since each VIN is unique to each car, it allows relevant authorities to check what exact car they are dealing with, even if it has undergone radical modifications which have significantly altered its appearance.
The VIN can be used by authorities to find out a particular vehicle’s manufacturer, specification and unique features. It can also be used to track a car’s insurance coverage, warranty claims, registration status or if it has been recalled or stolen.
Each VIN is made up of 17 characters (both digits and capital letters) and these form a unique code for every car.
Cars made before 1981 may have a shorter Vehicle Identification Number. The code for cars built prior to this year can vary from 11 to 17 characters.
Where can I find my car’s VIN?
The vehicle identification number is usually stamped into the chassis of a car. Owners can likely find their car’s VIN somewhere on the driver’s side of the dashboard.
The VIN may alternatively be found in other areas including the front of the engine block, inside the driver-side doorjamb or underneath the spare tyre.
Motorists could also find out what their car’s VIN is by looking at the owner’s manual for the car or relevant insurance documents.
When may I need to know my car’s identification number?
If you rebuild or radically alter a vehicle, or you build a kit car, the DVLA will usually have to assess it and will ask for the VIN.
You may be able to keep the original vehicle identification number the car received if you can prove what it is. If this isn’t possible, you’ll have to apply for a replacement identification number.
The DVLA will give you an authorisation letter to get the vehicle stamped with its new VIN, assuming it passes the DVLA’s assessment.
You’ll only be able to register your vehicle for road use after the DVLA approves it and confirms it has the correct vehicle identification number.