What is a Vehicle Identification Number? A Vehicle Identification Number, or "VIN" is a series of characters that is unique to each vehicle. The VIN allows a motorcycle's history to be traced - regardless of who owns it.
VINs have changed over the years and have gone through three distinct phases.
Prior to 1950, VINs acted only as identification for the type of motorcycle, not the individual motorcycle itself. The first characters of the VIN often identified the Make and Model. The remainder of the numbers identified the model year. Some manufacturers also identified the assembly plant and the engine's number of cylinders.
Around 1950 the numbers and models of motorcycles being produced began to explode. American manufacturers began stamping and casting identifying numbers on motorcycles and their parts. The information contained in the VIN varied from manufacturer to manufacturer and from year to year.
After 1950 the size of the VIN and the information it contained began to increase. The type of information typically included:
- body style
- assembly plant where motorcycle was manufactured
In addition, the Body Plate often included codes for paint, trim, rear end, transmission, price class, body type, and build date. The modern VIN was just around the corner.
Modern VIN codes came into use around 1980. Since 1981 the VIN is a seventeen-character code that has become a standard throughout the world. All manufacturers use the same coding system. Today's VIN numbers are designed to identify motor vehicles, and consist of three sections:
- WMI (World Manufacturer Identifier), which uniquely identifies the maker of the vehicle. The WMI occupies the first three positions of the VIN.
- VDS (Vehicle Descriptor Section). These 6 characters occupy positions 4 through 9 of the VIN and may be used by the manufacturer to identify attributes of the vehicle.
- VIS (Vehicle Identifier Section). The last 8 characters of the VIN are used to identify a specific vehicle.
This means that whatever model you are looking for, from Honda to Harley Davidson to Arlen Ness to BMW, if it was made in 1981 or later it will have a standard VIN number and you'll be able to find out the motorcycle's history.
Run the VIN numbers of the used motorcycles you're thinking about buying through a motorcycle VIN check at CycleChex to find out their histories.