A VIN, or vehicle identification number, is a unique 17-digit alphanumeric serial number. This number is used by the automotive industry to identify each vehicle, motorcycle, moped, scooter and towed vehicle.
American automobile manufacturers started using VINs in 1954 to identify motor vehicles. At that time there was no standard format, and different manufactures used different formats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established the standardized 17-character VIN in 1981. Consumers can perform a VIN search before purchase to discover if the vehicle has been stolen, has been involved in a major accident such as a roll over or submerged in water, has been classified as a lemon or has had the odometer rolled back or reset.