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8 Reasons Why your VIN Won't Decode

If you're having trouble decoding vehicles in your inventory, consider this list of errors and challenges commonly faced when working with Vehicle Identification Numbers.

  1. Your VIN contains illegal characters. VINs can use any alphanumeric character, except for the letters I,O, and Q.
  2. Your VIN isn't 17 digits long. Starting with model year 1981, all VINs are required to be 17 digits long.
  3. Your VIN does not pass the VIN checksum test. See our article on VIN Validation for more information about the VIN checksum.
  4. Your vehicle is outside the range of vehicles covered by your data provider. Your data provider may simply not support certain vehicle types or vehicle markets. For example, you may be trying to decode a VIN for an ATV or trailer, and your provider only covers light-duty cars and trucks. Or, you may be trying to decode may be destined for sale only in Canada or in Europe, but your data provider may only cover US-destination vehicles. For more information about how VINs vary by market, check out our article The Market's effect on a VIN.
  5. Your vehicle is not covered by your data license. For example, you may be trying to decode a Canadian vehicle using data provided by a data distributer that covers US and Canadian markets. However, if your data license is limited only to US vehicles, you may need to renegotiate your contract before you can decode vehicles destined for sale only in Canada.
  6. Your vehicle is brand new, and is not yet in your data provider's database. Timeliness is an important factor to consider when selecting your data provider. DataOne is a leading data provider for vehicle transport solutions, including rail, road, and transoceanic shipping of vehicles before their release. Because of this, DataOne generally has vehicle information available before new cars hit dealer lots.
  7. Your vehicle is too old. Your data provider may not have data for your vehicle's market in your vehicle's model year. Although the majority of your inventory may be less than ten years old, having even a small percentage of inventory that cannot be decoded could present a hardship for your business. DataOne's data provides market leading coverage back to the year the current VIN standard was implemented, 1981, for US-destination light-duty and passenger vehicles.
  8. Your VIN decode results in multiple "style" records. Unfortunately, some OEMs encode less information in their VINs than others. For example, the VIN 4T1BF1FK0CU123456 is a 2012 Toyota Camry, but it could be a Camry L, LE, SE, or XLE! The VIN alone does not tell us the trim of the vehicle. You could handle this case by considering only the data shared by these four trims, or you could use additional identifiers such as manufacturer model number, package code, trim badging, option codes,  and other descriptors to narrow your results. DataOne's VIN Decoder API Web Service can take any additional information you have about your inventory, along with VIN, to narrow your results down to a single style.

    For more information on vehicle styles and enhancing your decode quality using additional data, we recommend you consult the following resources:

    Vehicle Styles and VIN-to-Style Matching Explained
    How to Use DMS Data to Improve VIN Decoding
    DataOne VIN Decoder 7

Topics: validation, checksum, data license, vin decoding, VIN, vin explosion, vin api, VIN Decode

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