Blog VIN Number Guide : How To Check And Understand Your VIN

Oct 10, 2023

Here’s how to decode your VIN and why you need it for insurance

VIN number characters on car dashboard

A VIN is an essential piece of information for vehicle owners. To get a vehicle permit, coverage, or car ownership in Ontario, you must have a valid and accurate number.

Your car's VIN is a crucial identifier that records everything from an accident to an oil change. Insurers adjust premiums based on information from the insurance VIN check. In this blog post, we explain why it is important, how to check and look it up, and how to decode the characters.

Click below to jump to key points:

What is a VIN?
Can you get insurance without a VIN?
Where is the VIN on a car?
6 Reasons why it’s important to check your VIN
How can I verify my VIN?
How to read a VIN number
What do I do if my VIN is tampered with?
Frequently asked questions about VINs

What is a VIN?

A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a 17-character long code containing information about your car's unique features, manufacturer, and specifications. It also tracks vehicle history, warranty claims, theft, accidents, recalls, and insurance coverage. It is the identifying code for the specific vehicle. It is commonly known as your car's fingerprint – no two vehicles on the road have the same pin. Every car manufactured after 1981 has a VIN.

Your VIN should match in every place it's marked in your vehicle and your insurance slip to ensure you have the right vehicle covered. If you are buying a used car, you should check the VIN to verify the car's history and make sure you are not a victim of a car insurance scam.

With the rise of keyless car theft by organized crime, many salvaged vehicles end up back in the market. Salvaged vehicles are not as insurable as non-salvaged ones, so be cautious when buying a vehicle.

Always conduct a VIN check and request an inspection before buying a used car to avoid purchasing a vehicle with significant accident history or hidden damages.

Can you get insurance without a VIN?

Policies for car insurance in Ontario require you to provide a VIN, a unique number assigned to each vehicle. The VIN contains data about the car's driving history, and insurers use this information to price their policies accordingly.

Your VIN will not impact your rate unless your insurer finds that the vehicle was involved with a previous accident or theft.

Where is the VIN on a car?

The VIN is found on the vehicle's driver’s side, looking in from the windshield. Look in the bottom right corner. It can also be found on the doorpost and inside the driver's side door. Documents such as vehicle ownership, service records, and insurance coverage will also have the number. If for any reason, you do not have access to the vehicle in the event of buying a used car, ask the seller to provide it to you so you can run a VIN check.

6 Reasons why it’s important to check your VIN

A VIN provides you with important information about a vehicle. Having a VIN can help you track a vehicle across its lifespan. It can help you in many situations, such as getting a car insurance quote, and the following :

  • Buying a vehicle: A VIN confirms a car's authenticity, reducing the chance of purchasing a stolen or unsafe vehicle.
  • Simplify transactions: Guide the process of registering your car, renewing your license plate, or transferring ownership.
  • Vehicle recovery: Help law enforcement identify and recover stolen vehicles.
  • Repairs and parts: Make it easier for vehicle maintenance and autobody shops to order appropriate parts for your vehicle.
  • Claim support: Your insurance company will be able to identify your vehicle and confirm the proper coverage is applied in case of a claim.
  • Protect vehicle identity: Ensure you protect your car's identity with an original title, as duplicates can be added to stolen vehicles.

How can I verify my VIN?

It is recommended to check all VIN locations on your vehicle to ensure they are all the same. Match the number with the vehicle's original registration form and check if the number provides the right year, model, make, and vehicle colour.

There are free online VIN decoders to help with the process. You should also check for signs of tampering (scratched numbers, mismatched rivets, glue, or paint over the area). This could be a sign of someone trying to change or hide the original number, which could change the VIN's data or prove it is a stolen car.

Ensure that the number on your vehicle ownership permit matches the VIN plate on the dashboard. Contact the motor vehicle licensing/registration office immediately if there is any discrepancy.

If the VIN on the pink liability card does not match the VIN plate on the dashboard, contact your insurance agent or local police as soon as possible.

How to read a VIN number

infographic explaining how to decode a VIN

You might think this code is a random mix of 17 characters, but each combination has specific information identifying the manufacturer, make, model, and year. Here is how the numbers break down:


1 : Decode the meaning of the first number or letter. This character will tell you where the vehicle was made.

  • A – H means Africa
  • J – R (except O and Q) means Asia
  • S – Z means Europe
  • 1 – 5 means North America
  • 6 or 7 means New Zealand or Australia
  • 8 or 9 is for South America

2 : Decode the second and third digits. These characters will tell you who the manufacturer is. The third digits will provide the exact division of the manufacturer, such as General Motors. Some examples include :

  • 1 Chevrolet
  • J Jeep
  • T Toyota
  • 6 Cadillac

3 : The vehicle descriptor section. The next five numbers will tell you the brand of the car, engine, and which type of vehicle it is.

4 : The ninth number is used to prove the VIN is not a fake.

5 : The tenth number will indicate the year the car was made. For example, if the vehicle was made in 2010, it should have the letter A.

6 : The eleventh number will tell you the exact plant that made the vehicle. This digit is specific to each manufacturer.

A : Flexible fuel vehicles can be identified by the 2nd, 3rd and 8th digits

B : The final numbers. The last digits act as a serial number for the car and what makes the VIN original to that car.

Insurance rates just as unique as your VIN

By sharing the VIN of the vehicle and answering a few quick questions about your driving habits, our team can help you find the lowest rate for personalized coverage.

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What do I do if my VIN is tampered with?

If the car was stolen or ever deemed un-safe for driving, the VIN could have been tampered with so the car could still be sold. Criminals may try to hide a car's history by:

  • Scratching the VIN or removing the plate
  • Altering the VIN (changing numbers and letters)
  • Replacing the real VIN with a made-up one or cloning one from another vehicle

After you review your VIN, you should contact your province's motor vehicle licensing/registration if you notice any discrepancies. If you notice the VIN does not match any insurance documents, contact your insurer or local police as soon as possible.

What if a VIN is less than 17 characters long?

If you notice a VIN is not 17 numbers long, it generally means the vehicle was made before 1981 and will not decode appropriately with new search systems. The information on cars before 1981 is limited. It's common for classic cars to have this issue.

FAQs about VINs

The VIN is a specific 17 characters that are assigned to your vehicle during the manufacturing process. It always stays the same and contains essential information about your car, such as make, model, year, and warranty information.

You can check your vehicle warranty by providing the VIN to your dealership. You can find your VIN on the front dash of your driver's side windshield, inside your car door, or policy. They can provide you with what is and is not covered under your warranty.

Yes – a VIN can tell you everything about the vehicle's history, from car theft, weather damage, and warranty information. If you found a good deal on a used car, you should ensure it has a clean history before buying it. .

Yes, you can use your VIN to find car parts. By sharing the number with your car parts dealer, they can fine-tune the parts to ensure they fit your make and model.

Know The Importance Of A VIN Number For Cars

Having an accurate and valid VIN can ensure you are driving a road-safe vehicle. If you notice issues with your VIN or notice there are issues, address them right away.