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All You Need To Know About VIN Etching

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According to the Hot Spots Report published by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in September 2022, law enforcement agencies received reports of the theft of 932,329 automobiles in 2021. VIN etching is one among the many methods that can be used to curb the stealing of cars and automobile parts in particular. But how does one track a stolen car using VIN? How much does VIN etching cost? Here is a lowdown about VIN.  

All you need to know about VIN etching

What is VIN? 

Vehicle Identification Number, commonly known as VIN, distinguishes one car from another. VIN is a 17-character alphanumeric that is visible on cars and stamped on its parts as mandated by law. This requirement was brought into force in 1981 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard requires it to be etched on several parts of your car. 

What is VIN etching? 

The Vehicle Identification Number is permanently etched on a car’s windows to stop thieves from stealing it. Cars are stolen mainly to benefit from selling the car intact or profit from selling its parts.    

However, VIN etching discourages thieves from selling stolen autos and their parts. This is because window etching requires the thief to change the car’s windows before selling it. This involves money and prevents them from selling it. Consequently, and (hopefully) reducing the theft rates. In other words, it reduces a car’s resale value after being stolen.  

Which are the parts that need VIN etching? 

The Theft Prevention Standard included in the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992  suggests 18 car parts be etched. This includes parts like the engine, transmission, front fenders, hood, front door, front and rear bumpers, and catalytic converters and windows.  

How is VIN etching done? 

In the process of VIN etching, a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is engraved onto the windshield and windows of the vehicle. It uses a stencil and an acid etching paste to engrave the number on the car’s window.  

However, this is a quick process. Firstly, a stencil of your VIN is developed. This is then used with the glass etching paste to engrave the number on the windows. Most car dealerships and regional police agencies offer VIN etchings. In addition, DIY VIN etching kits are available online or at automobile specialty stores. 

VIN etching

How much does VIN etching cost? 

VIN etching can range from being relatively cheap to an expensive process. For example, car dealerships can charge you in the range of $200 to $400. However, if you plan to do it on your own, you can purchase a DIY etching kit that costs less than $15 or get a custom-engraved VIN plate for $32 

How to locate a stolen car using VIN 

VINs are unique to each vehicle and can be used to trace its history. In addition to the physical features of the car, it includes any previous history of vehicle theft.  

Your car’s VIN reveals the following details about your vehicle.  

  • Country of origin  
  • Details about the manufacturer 
  • Manufacturer authorization via a security code 
  • Details about the vehicle assembling plant  
  • Car’s brand 
  • Engine size and type 
  • Vehicle model year 
  • Serial number 

Meanwhile, several organizations keep track of automobiles that have been lost, stolen, or wrecked. In addition, they offer a free stolen VIN check for consumers. For example, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) provides a similar service. 

How to check a VIN with the National Insurance Crime Bureau 

  • Log in to the VINCheck Lookup page. 
  • Provide the VIN of your car. 
  • Agree to the terms of use. 
  • It will check if your VIN is related to a stolen or salvaged vehicle. 

 The website will direct you to the NICB or police if your automobile is stolen. 

 Similarly, one can carry out the function with other websites and insurance agencies that allow similar VIN lookups. For example, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), managed by the U.S. Department of Justice, hosts a list of websites that helps you track your stolen car using the Vehicle Identification Number. 

How does VIN help in the purchase of a used ATV?

All-Terrain Vehicles, commonly known as ATVs, are popular among U.S. drivers. However, purchasing a used ATV is an affordable option. Therefore, running an ATV VIN check before proceeding is advisable. 

Where should I check the ATV VIN? 

 The vehicle identification number in most ATVs is located on the left side of the frame under the shifter. However, this can also be found in vehicle titles, registration, bill of sale, and insurance papers.  

Consequently, use the number to run the VIN check through a reliable website that offers the service.  

Why should I check the ATV VIN? 

This will help in understanding the price, the theft history, and the safety and performance of the ATV you are looking for. A VIN check is mandatory for an ATV since it involves higher risk while driving and an increased probability of theft.  

In addition to these details, one can obtain information like mileage, rolled-back odometer, financial obligations, and the damages caused due to natural disasters.  

Is VIN etching worth it? 

Police departments, insurance agencies, and government automobile/vehicle theft prevention agencies advocate VIN etching. In addition, those cars with VIN-etched windows are often qualified for up to 15% in some states and with several auto insurance companies.  

VIN etching is worth the service when done at a nominal fee as it reduces the resale value of costly parts, including catalytic converters, preventing the chances of theft.


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