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How To Decode a VIN  Prior to understanding how VIN decoding works, it is important to know what it is all about. It may look flawless and drive fine, but if water has gotten inside the car it is likely to develop expensive-to-repair electrical problems in the future. Used car buyers should also be careful when buying cars that were previously used as a rental vehicle. Carfax, one of our partners, is well known and has benefited many used car buyers since 1996.
When you get the report, pay attention to the dates and the corresponding odometer records. This is because not all accidents are reported and the mechanical condition of the vehicle can only be verified by a thorough mechanical inspection; things like engine or transmission condition are also important, but they are not marked in the history report. To get your FREE Vehicle History Report from CARFAX, simply stop by Neader Motors in La Crosse or La Crescent and let us know what vehicle(s) you are interested in. The CARFAX database contains accident indicators and service records from thousands of sources.
The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number or colloquially Serial Number) tag is a tag used by government agencies as the official document located on any vehicle to uniquely identify that vehicle for proof of ownership. The required use of a VIN tag by the United States Government was not codified until the 1968 model year.
For example, Mustangs had the fender aprons stamped with the VIN for the 1965-1967 model years as seen here. This is not a VIN tag, although a significant number of people call them that because it has a vehicle identification number on it.
When the VIN tag began to be used for the 1968 model year, it was installed in the dash up against the window on the passenger side. Flash floods are becoming a common occurrence and once in a while you might come across a vehicle that had been flooded in the past like this one in the photo. Some of the ex-rental cars might be kept in good shape, while others may have been abused or poorly maintained. It's a 17-character number with letters and digits that you can find in the left front corner of the windshield (in the photo) or on the manufacturing label on the door jamb.


The CARFAX® history report also shows the number of previous owners, some service records and states or provinces where the car was previously registered. If it shows that one year the car was driven for 15,000 miles and another year for only 3,000 miles, you may need to check the vehicle more carefully. Prior to that, Ford Motor Company used a method of stamping the VIN for the vehicle into a piece of sheet metal that was an integral part of the body.
Even though this practice continued in the 1968 and later model years, it was no longer the official VIN for the vehicle; its use subrogated to keeping track of the vehicle while at the assembly plant. Note that it has a statement on it that says, "NOT FOR TITLE OR REGISTRATION PURPOSES." It is called a patent plate, or more commonly called a door data plate. United States Title Code required the tag to be visible to government officials (especially police officers); however, it was not specified which side to place the tag.
I have known of overzealous agents who impounded the vehicle and removed the "offending" tag. Because of the galvanic reaction between the aluminum of the VIN tag and the steel dash that it was attached to, it became common for the tag to corrode, sometimes to the point of illegibility.
According to the NHTSA, there are approximately 452,000 cases of odometer fraud per year in the United States. For these reasons, used car buyers should consider checking used car history records BEFORE signing the contract. This information helps protect you from buying a car with a DMV-issued branded title including salvage, fire or flood damage, and mileage problems.
The CARFAX Vehicle History Report helps protect you from unknowingly buying a car that has a state-issued salvage brand. The CARFAX Vehicle History Report can help you see if a car has been branded as a lemon by a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The CARFAX Vehicle History Report includes flood damage titles issued by state DMVs, and you can use the free CARFAX Flood Check to see if a used auto was reported as flooded. In addition, CARFAX does an odometer rollback check on every vehicle identification number that you run to help you identify possible odometer fraud.
The CARFAX VIN check tells the average miles driven per year and the last odometer reading reported to CARFAX.


The CARFAX Vehicle History Report may tell if the vehicle has been registered by a rental company. The CARFAX Vehicle History Report may tell if a car was registered as a fleet or commercial vehicle. The CARFAX Vehicle History Report may tell if the automobile has been declared a total loss by an insurance company.
Chrysler Corporation and General Motors Corporation choose the driver side of their vehicles. The formal VIN started in 1981 since before that there were different formats used by different manufacturers.
You can lookup any Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and get a car's reported history to CARFAX.
The standardization of the numbers was done to get rid of chances of similar VIN’s appearing.
In general, cars that have been repaired after an accident are more likely to develop rust, as well as mechanical and electrical problems. One of the reasons this is important is that sometimes DMV (MVD, BMV) agents do not know this and when they open the door of your vehicle and find it is missing or one from a donor vehicle (with an incorrect serial number for your vehicle) is installed, you will get tied up in bureaucracy. Because of this anomaly, government officials occasionally make the mistake of assuming a 1968 Ford vehicle has been tampered with because the VIN tag appears to have been "moved" to the passenger side. Tags in this condition will often invite the DMV agent to remove it and replace it with a state-assigned VIN tag. The digits that are found on car VIN indicate the year the vehicle was manufactured, assembly point, country of origin, model as well as other important details that will prove helpful in its identification. Pointing out that the official VIN is located elsewhere is important (although very gentle words are encouraged to avoid the wrath of an upset agent!).



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