How to Decode/Check Your VIN for FREE

August 11, 2020

Spoiler alert: It’s easier than you think

Your VIN can tell you a bunch of useful stuff. But without a way to decode your VIN, or run a check on it, it’s nothing more than a string of 17 alphanumeric digits. So, how do you turn those digits into something meaningful? And what’s the difference between decoding your VIN and running a VIN check? Just keep reading to find out.

What’s the difference between decoding and running a VIN check?

When you decode your VIN, all you’re doing is finding out what each digit in the VIN means. It won’t tell you anything about the vehicle’s history. You’ll get the year it was made, where it was made, and the specifications it rolled off the assembly line with.

Meanwhile, if you run a VIN check, you won’t necessarily get all of that information, although you might get some of it. Instead, you’ll get a full history of the vehicle. Form the title status to the maintenance history; it’s all included in a VIN check. 

Where and how you can decode your VIN

There are tons of places to get your VIN decoded. But by far, the best is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) VIN decoder. Why’s it the best? Because it’s the same organization that set up VIN’s to begin with. So, you know all of the information that your getting is entirely accurate. Just as good, it’s sure to have whatever vehicle you’re trying to get decoded. 

Where and how you can check your VIN

When it comes to checking your VIN, there are two different ways to go. The free options and paid services. Like you might expect, the paid services offer more information. But the free options are where you should start. They give you enough information to display any potential red flags and save you some money before buying one of the more comprehensive reports.

Best free option

When it comes to free options, it’s hard to beat They run the VIN through multiple databases and get you the current title status, accident history, and odometer readings for free. 

Best paid option

When it comes to the most comprehensive reports, best place to look at is You’re sure to have heard of them, they advertise with the little fox that bombards television ads and billboards. But there’s a reason they’re so popular. They pull all of the information available and put it together into one easy to read report.


Knowing what your VIN can tell you doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know how to get to that information. You should decode and run a VIN check on any vehicle before you buy it. What you find might surprise you. And once you realize how easy it is, you’ll wonder why you haven’t always done it.

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