Your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique identifier used to monitor a vehicle’s ownership, history and location. While you may be able to get a car insurance quote without a VIN number, you’ll likely need this information to finalize buying an insurance policy. Fortunately there are a few ways you may be able to easily find this number.

What is a car’s VIN?

VIN stands for vehicle identification number. It is a unique, 17-character alphanumeric identifier that is assigned to your car when it is built. Every car has its own VIN that stays with it for the lifetime of the vehicle.

You may find the VIN noted in a couple of areas in a car. It may be on the driver’s side windshield, which is usually seen most easily by standing outside the car and looking at the corner where the dashboard meets the windshield. If the VIN is not there, you may find it inside the driver’s side door near where the door latches when it closes. Sometimes, the VIN is noted on the inside of the trunk or trunk latch. A quick online search may lead you to the VIN location for your specific make and model. Additionally, it can be found on the vehicle’s registration, title and your insurance card.

So what does the VIN tell you? Each character is coded with a particular piece of information, including the following:

  • The country the car was made in
  • The vehicle’s make and model, along with more detailed information such as the engine type and transmission
  • The year the car was made
  • The manufacturing plant where the car was assembled
  • Whether the VIN is valid (known through the ninth character, which is a security code)
  • Manufacturer-specific information, such as factory-fitted options on the vehicle (known through the last six-character serial number)

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Do you need a VIN for car insurance?

The short answer is yes; you do need a VIN when getting car insurance. However, you don’t need one to start the process of purchasing a policy. Insurers are able to give you a general quote without the VIN, so if you are thinking of purchasing a certain car, but haven’t headed to the dealership just yet, you can get a sense of what your insurance costs may be by obtaining a few quotes.

Once you’ve decided on a specific car, you’ll need the VIN to actually buy the policy. The VIN gives the insurance company valuable information and allows them to give you more accurate quotes. No insurance company will sell you a policy without having the VIN in hand.

What you need to get car insurance quotes

Getting insurance quotes is usually easy and may be done online in many cases. The information required for a quote varies from company to company and state to state, but you will generally need your name, address, date of birth and driver’s license numbers for all listed drivers on the policy. Your potential insurance company will also likely need to know your vehicle’s year, make, model and mileage. Some insurers may ask whether the car will be housed in a garage or outside. Additionally, you should be prepared to give information regarding who your previous insurer was (if you had one) and when that policy expired.

You may be asked for the VIN at this point, but you may be able to get the quote without it. Keep in mind that the quote may not be as accurate as it would be if you had the VIN. Your insurer can only give you a final cost quote once the carrier has seen the VIN. If you’re looking to buy a car, you may be able to ask the seller for the VIN to more accurately estimate potential insurance costs.

Remember that insurance quotes are an estimate of what you will pay and are not written in stone. If you do not include the VIN in the initial quote, it’s possible that the quote will change once the insurer has the more accurate and specific information contained in the VIN.

What you need to get a car insurance policy

Once you are ready to purchase your policy, you will definitely need the VIN. Your VIN will relay pertinent information for the underwriting process, such as if the vehicle has a history of severe damage or has been stolen. You may also have to provide information that might not have been required for the quote, like your driving history and if you have any past marks on your license.

Why do VINs matter?

A VIN is to a car what your fingerprint is to you. It’s unique to each vehicle and includes a wealth of information in its 17 characters that tells your insurer about the car’s origins and history. No car on the road has the same VIN, so your insurer knows exactly what it needs to accurately quote your policy.

As a driver, you don’t need to memorize your car’s VIN, though it may be helpful to know where you can find it. For your insurer, the VIN is a vital piece of information that allows it to assess the risk it may undertake when insuring the car. Sharing your car’s VIN with potential insurers allows you to gather more accurate quotes. More accurate quotes may allow you to ensure you’re getting the best rate on your car insurance policy.

Frequently asked questions

    • Your cost of car insurance will vary based on factors like your driving history, vehicle type, state and coverage type. In most states, your age, gender and credit history will also impact your premium. The average cost of car insurance is $2,014 per year for full coverage and $622 per year for minimum coverage. Comparing personalized quotes from carriers is likely the most accurate way to understand what you might pay for auto insurance.
    • The exact location of your car’s VIN may vary based on the age, make and model of the car. However, most VINs can be found in these places on your vehicle: 
      • The driver’s side windshield corner where the dashboard meets the windshield
      • The driver’s side door near where the door latches when it closes
      • The inside of the trunk or trunk latch
      You can also find your VIN number on your car’s registration, title and insurance card.
    • Car insurance companies may ask for your car’s VIN during the quoting process. If they do not, you will be asked to provide it before you finalize your policy purchase. You’ll likely want to have your car’s VIN on hand before requesting quotes in case the online quote tool or insurance agent asks for it.