Second-hand BMW vehicles are highly sought after due to their reputation for German engineering and quality. However, not every used BMW is a high-quality model capable of providing a trouble-free ownership experience, either because of age or misuse.
The easiest way to know if a BMW has issues that might affect its quality and reliability is to check its Vehicle Identification Number (or VIN). The BMW VIN holds the key to any BMW’s identity, storing different vehicle data, including recall history, accident records, and theft details.
This helps you avoid undesirable vehicles that perform poorly after purchase. Read on to see how you can locate a BMW VIN and decode it!
Why Should You Use a BMW VIN Decoder?
Check for basic vehicle data before purchasing
The BMW VIN is your vehicle’s identity, just like your fingerprint is your personalized form of ID. From the VIN, you can get a vehicle’s specifications, including its engine size, trim level, and features, plus its recall and accident records.
Because it can provide so much information about a BMW, the BMW VIN decoder is a valuable resource for buyers and owners.
Evaluate the sales information provided by the seller
If a seller gives you misleading or incomplete information about a BMW's value, the BMW VIN decoder can identify the discrepancy. That's because the tool will provide information such as the last selling price and past auction records for the vehicle.
Alternatively, you can also determine the value of the car by using Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds. Both sites offer a used car marketplace valuation tool, allowing you to learn more about the current market value of the BMW you intend to buy. This will improve your negotiation power with dealerships.
Identify VIN fraud
Another advantage of using a BMW online VIN decoder is you'll know if the car you plan to buy has a fake or cloned VIN. A VIN decoder will show if a car's VIN is for another vehicle, which is obviously a red flag when buying used BMW models.
Also, a BMW VIN check can help you confirm the last odometer reading for the car. If the current mileage reading is lower than the one recorded in the past, it's very likely the odometer reader has been tampered with.
Good for buying replacement spare parts
You might also utilize a BMW VIN check if you’re buying spare parts for a BMW vehicle. Online parts shops will often require certain specifications to confirm a part matches your vehicle. A BMW VIN decoder makes getting such specifications very easy, including engine size, transmission design, wheel and tire sizes, and more.
BMW's official website also allows you to shop for original replacement spare parts. You will be guided to select your model and model year, and you will be provided instant results of which spare parts are appropriate for your specific car.
Check accident and damage history
You can save money on your next BMW purchase by confirming the vehicle's accident details. The BMW VIN decoder will tell you the number, if any, incidents, and which part of the car was damaged. With this information, you can determine whether it is a wise purchase or if you might be buying a car needing hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
Uncover recall records
Certain BMW vehicles, such as the 1 Series and X1, were recalled between 2000 and 2015 due to faulty Takata airbags. With a VIN check, you can easily confirm if your BMW has any open recalls. You can do this by simply entering the VIN number below.
Another way to check a vehicle's safety recall history is to use BMW's recall check tool. It also enables you to find nearby repair shops if your car's recall hasn't been fixed yet.
Where to Find a BMW VIN?
The BMW VIN can be found in multiple places on a vehicle. The easiest place to read the VIN is on the dashboard plate near the base of the windshield on the driver's side. You may also find the BMW VIN on the radiator frame, the door jamb of the driver’s side front door, or other chassis locations. You can check the illustration for a better understanding of where to look.
Other areas where BMW places the Vehicle Identification Number on its vehicles include:
- Right fender
- The lid of fuse box
- Transmission housing
- Front seat frame
- Front door pillars
- Surface of front suspension cross member
How to Decode a BMW VIN?
A BMW VIN comprises 17 symbols, mixing numbers and letters. Although it looks complex, decoding a BMW VIN is something anyone can do. But doing it manually will require some time, which is why using a BMW VIN decoder is a better alternative.
Here’s a guide to decoding the characters in the BMW VIN:
- 1st character — This indicates where your BMW was built
- 2nd character — This indicates the vehicle manufacturer
- 3rd character — This indicates the vehicle’s category
- 4th-8th character — These paint a “portrait” of the vehicle, giving key details like the engine specification, transmission type, etc
- 9th character — This identifies that the BMW VIN number is an authorized one; also called ‘Security Check Digit’
- 10th character — This identifies the vehicle’s release year
- 11th character — This indicates the plant that built a BMW vehicle; also called the ‘Plant Code’
- 12th-17th character — This is the number given to the BMW vehicle on the assembly line; also called the ‘Serial Number’
What Information Can You Find with a BMW VIN Check Service?
A BMW VIN check service can provide details about your BMW, tracing history from production to the current date. Here is some of the vehicle info you can get from using a BMW VIN lookup tool:
- Ownership history
- Year of release
- Model brand
- Type of restraint system
- Engine size
- Country and factory of production
- Warranty claims
- Insurance coverage
- Salvage records
- Production sequence number
How to Get a BMW Vehicle History Report for Free?
Now that we have discussed the BMW VIN lookup, here is how you decode your VIN for free:
- Step 1: Open up VinPit's website
- Step 2: Enter the VIN into the space provided
- Step 3: Press the "Start Search" button
- Step 4: Receive your report, which you can download or print
Additionally, you can get a car report for your BMW by looking up your license plate number.
BMW Sample VIN Numbers
- VIN — WBADAX1C57BE569781
- Model = BMW 3-series 335i Convertible SULEV
- Model Year = 2011
- Engine Specifications = 3.0-liter L6 DOHC 24V
- Place of production = Germany
- Body Type = 2-door convertible
- VIN — 5UXFB33533LH47755
- Model = BMW X5 4.4i
- Model Year = 2003
- Engine Specifications = 4.4-liter V8 DOHC 32V
- Place of Production = U.S.A.
- Body Type = 4-door Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)
BMW VIN Lookup Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does the BMW VIN lookup work?
The BMW VIN lookup tool is an effective way of getting basic information about a vehicle. You only have to enter the VIN into the decoder search bar and press okay to start the lookup.
What will the BMW VIN report contain?
The BMW VIN report will contain all the info stored in your VIN — model, release year, safety info, etc. It will also provide information associated with that VIN from other sources — recall data, theft records, etc.
Can I look up the VIN for any BMW vehicle?
As long as a BMW has a valid VIN, nothing stops you from running a VIN lookup. But remember that only BMWs from the 1980s and later will have VIN numbers in the standardized format. Older models will likely not have a valid VIN format that can be decoded, as it wasn’t required before 1981.
Why should I look up a BMW VIN?
Researching a BMW VIN is a smart and easy way to ascertain the history and present condition of a BMW model. You might also need to do a VIN lookup if you want certain vehicle specifications like model year, engine size, features, etc.
Is the BMW VIN lookup free?
Provided that you’re using VinPit.com for your BMW VIN lookup, you won’t pay anything. Other sites sometimes charge a fee for VIN checks.
Decoding a BMW VIN provides highly useful information about a BMW vehicle. Our free BMW VIN decoder allows you to decode a BMW VIN within minutes and get a detailed report.