Vehicle Identification Numbers

A vehicle's VIN is like a fingerprint that tells you the vehicle's history and identifying features. Looking at the history of a used vehicle before you buy it can help you be more confident about your purchase. 

A VIN Confirms Your Car's True Identity

All vehicles built for sale in North America since 1981 have a VIN that consists of a combination of 17 letters and digits. This is like the vehicle's fingerprint. A vehicle's VIN provides key information about its manufacturer, model, model year, make, equipment and class. 

A VIN identifies a specific car to the insurance industry, law enforcement, governments and concerned stakeholders. A car's VIN:

  • Is engraved on a metal plate on the driver's side of the dashboard and in other places on the car;
  • Provides basic information about the car, including the make and model and where and when it was built;
  • Stays the same no matter how many times the car changes owners and licence plate numbers;
  • Can be used to track the history of the car – for example, whether it has been in any serious crashes, whether it has been stolen and how many owners it has had;
  • Is used by insurance companies to set accurate premiums;
  • Can help police find the rightful owner if the car is stolen.

Find out how to use a VIN to identify a stolen car.

Why Care About The VIN?

An accurate VIN can:

  1. Assist you in buying a used car. If you know how to check a car's VIN, you will be less likely to buy a stolen car or a car that has been deemed unsafe for road use, such as a car damaged in a flood. For more information about buying a used car, contact your provincial or territorial vehicle licensing/registration office.
  2. Help ensure a hassle-free transaction when you register your car, renew your licence plate permit or transfer ownership. An accurate VIN helps confirm the identity, and ownership of your car.
  3. Helps law enforcement identify and recover stolen vehicles.
  4. Make it easier for auto body and maintenance shops to order appropriate parts for your car. For example, a VIN identifies a car's model series, engine and drivetrain.
  5. Help your insurance company identify your car to ensure that your insurance is properly rated and confirm ownership in the event of a claim
  6. Protect your car's identity. Unlike a fingerprint, duplicate vehicle identities can be created, making it easier to sell stolen cars. This is a type of insurance crime that all policyholders pay for.