VIN Defined

VIN: Wine? Action star? Confusing mix of letters and numbers on your car? Find out.

VIN. It’s French for wine. But as much as we’d love to compare the Bordeaux and Rhone regions of France, we’re a car insurance company, so we’re interested in a different kind of VIN.

What is a VIN?

A VIN is a unique set of 17 numbers and letters that essentially act as your car’s thumbprint. First implemented in 1954 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the VIN helps increase the speed and accuracy of recalls and deter car theft. It also helps car insurers accurately provide rates, since it contains the history of your ride from day one. It became standard (and standardized) on all cars built after 1981.

What does it stand for?

Though VINs include both letters and numbers, VIN stands for vehicle identification number. (So, like ATM machine, it’s repetitive to say VIN number, but don’t get us started.)

Where do I find it?

The 17-digit alpha-numeric combination can be found on your driver’s side door and windshield. It’s also marked on 18 different major parts of your car.

Why do cars have them?

Anyone who’s ever bought a used car or had a car stolen knows just how handy a vehicle identification number is. Want to know if a car has had any accidents or holds a salvage title? Check the VIN. If it’s been reported to the DMV, it’ll show up in the car’s history. And if your car’s stolen, well, what better way to track it down than through its unique ID?

What do all those letters and numbers stand for?

Believe it or not, the combination of letters and numbers isn’t as random as it looks. Here’s the breakdown:

Do I need my VIN to get a car insurance quote?

Though you don’t need your car’s VIN to get a quote from Esurance, the more information you can provide, the more accurate your quote will be. To save you time, Esurance offers Express Lane™ — a quoting tool that looks up your car info (like your VIN) and insurance info (like your current deductibles) for you. All you have to do is enter your name, address, and date of birth.


There you go. Everything you ever wanted to know about the VIN. You’re welcome.

Related link

Curious about other insurance terms? Our insurance glossary has tons of useful definitions.

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