Knowing What’s in a VIN Reveals Pertinent History

Whether you are an insurer, a program administrator, or an MGA, you are always seeking ways to improve and streamline your administrative processes. One way to do this is through automated rating systems that allows you to instantly rate ISO-based or carrier-specific commercial auto insurance business. A fundamental aspect of that rating process involves providing the chassis or vehicle identification number (VIN), a unique code assigned to each vehicle. Without true and correct VIN validation to obtain the data you will be entering into a rating system, the correctness of the data that emerges will be compromised; thus, it’s critical that the insureds you represent understand what the numbers represent, which can help flag problems (e.g., stolen vehicles or those with troubled histories). Here’s some background on these codes and how they work.
The automotive industry uses VINs to identify motor and towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds as defined by the ISO, standard No. 3833. First introduced in 1954, VINS did not have an accepted standard format until 1981 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required that all vehicles sold for on-the-road use carry a 17-character alphanumeric code, which is embossed onto the chassis of the vehicle during assembly. The letters I, O and Q are not used in any VIN sequence as they are thought to be too easily mistaken for the numbers one (1) or zero (0).
VINS offer a great deal of information about a vehicle’s identity and history, and can be decoded to reveal the manufacturer, the model, the engine or body style, the year, and where the vehicle was assembled. One can use a VIN to follow a vehicle from when it rolled out of the factory to when it was towed onto a scrap heap, and everything that happened to it in between.
Besides the front of the engine block, the VIN may be found in several other areas, such as:
• Front of car frame near the washer fluid tank
• In the rear wheel well
• Inside driver-side door jamb or door post
• Underneath the spare tire
The ninth digit in the sequence represents the vehicle’s check digit code. A calculation can be performed by an automotive expert using this digit to get a value which is compared with the original value; if the two values don’t match (which is likely if someone has attempted to falsify the number), there’s a problem. A thorough check on the VIN number should reveal inconsistencies in a vehicle’s history and legitimacy. Convey this information to your insureds and make VIN validation part of the preliminary steps for vehicles to be insured in order to make sure the protection that is being sought is appropriate.

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