Should I Provide My VIN? The Truth Behind When You Sell a Motorcycle Online.

“Idk. Is it safe to give out my motorcycle's VIN?” 

This is a common question heard when it comes to online vehicle and motorcycle sales, so I decided to get to the bottom of thisThe answer is yes. It absolutely is okay to give out your motorcycle’s VIN online. Here’s why.


What is a VIN? 

Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) are kind of like a fingerprint for your motorcycle or car, seeing as they are unique identification sequences affixed to every car, truck, motorcycle, or trailer manufactured after 1981. VINs are designed to keep track of ownership changes, problems or updates, and locate stolen vehicles.

While the VIN is unique and relevant to your vehicle, it is not like a Social Security Number or a Credit Card Number, and doesn’t need to be protected as such. Instead, the VIN is simply a collection of letters and numbers that identify the following information:

  • - World manufacturer identifier: the region in which the manufacturer is located such as the United States, Canada, etc.
  • - Motorcycle attributes: the type, model, style, etc.
  • - Identifiers: traits that are unique to the individual vehicle in question, options installed, engine, etc.
  • - Model year: the year your motorcycle was made.
  • - Plant code: specific plant where your motorcycle was assembled.

For more information about the VIN, check the the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Chapter V, Part 565.

Can someone steal my motorcycle if they have the VIN?

There is a common misconception that the VIN could be used to create duplicate keys for your bike, or otherwise be used in an elaborate scheme to steal your motorcycle. While there is a particular type of scam where VIN thieves will register vehicles with a stolen number, as long as you have the proper paperwork to prove ownership, etc., there should never be a problem showing you are in the right. Simply put, it's not much easier for someone to steal your motorcycle with the VIN than to physically steal it in person.

DMV.org has more about VIN fraud here

Think of it this way, on most vehicles, the VIN is located in a place where it is easily seen by the public (such as parking cops and meter maids), and anyone can walk up to your motorcycle or car and see the VIN. Contrary to widespread speculation, a VIN does not contain personal information and sharing it is common in transactions. Supplying your VIN to a prospective buyer is no more dangerous than parking your bike in public where anybody could copy the VIN, themselves. Motorcycle dealers will gladly post the vehicle’s identification number along with its advertisement on the web. If you visit eBay, AutoTrader, Cars.com, etc., you can see that it is not top secret information as one would assume.

What is the VIN used for, then?

A VIN is primarily used to check against a database and read relevant service information and a detailed vehicle history report. The VIN shows if the motorcycle has been in any major accidents, what work has been done on parts if any, and the date of the last inspection. The VIN cannot reveal personal information such as the owner's name, address, etc. Some alternative services such as CarFax, etc., could make it possible to research such information, but the series of numbers and letters in the VIN itself does not have such details.  

Really, by giving your VIN to a prospective buyer online, you aren’t providing any more information than today’s fifth graders can find on their own through Google or Facebook. Those savvy little cyber punks...

Where can I find the VIN?

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For most motorcycles, the VIN is located on the steering neck or the motor near the bottom of the cylinders. On most cars, you can find the VIN on the dashboard on the driver's side, and it's visible through the windshield from outside the car.

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