Is It Safe to Give Out Your Motorcycle’s VIN?


When selling your motorcycle online, having your bike’s information available for a potential buyer is necessary in order to move forward in the selling process.  While it can be intimidating sharing your personal information online, disclosing your Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) is perfectly safe.

What is Your Vehicle Identification Number and Why is it Important?

A VIN number is composed of 17 characters unique to every motorcycle, representing its origin. No two vehicles made within 30 years of each other have the same VIN. In 1981, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration instituted the 17-character format used for every vehicle manufactured in the United States. It became the standard identifying code for each vehicle. Prior to that year, each manufacturer identified their vehicles differently. If you find a VIN that is not 17 characters long, it is most likely a pre-1981 vehicle.  

Locating Your Motorcycle’s VIN

Buyers who are serious about purchasing a used motorcycle may want to use a VIN check service to understand more about the bike’s history. For a small fee, buyers can learn if the bike has been in any accidents or had any major repairs to make an informed purchase. The best way to gain your buyers trust is to have the VIN number available, in case they ask for it. The quickest way to find your VIN, is on your motorcycle. Today, you’ll most likely find your motorcycle’s VIN on the front frame tubes. You will also find the vehicle identification number in other locations such as the registration, title or insurance card.

VIN Decoding

For some, decoding the VIN number is a hobby. For others, it’s a systematic method that can help you learn crucial information about the bike in a matter of seconds. The first character is the country’s code. If your bike was built in the United States then the first digit would be either a “1”, “4” or “5”. The second and third characters represent the manufacturer who constructed the bike. Four through eight represent the brand and the type and size of the engine. The ninth character is a security code the manufacturer authorizes to verify that the previous characters are accurate. The tenth digit is the year the motorcycle was built. The eleventh character indicates which plant assembled the vehicle. Finally, the last 6 digits serve as the serial number. The letters I, O, and Q are left off to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 and 0.

It’s important to note that beginning in 1981, Harley-Davidson began abbreviating the VIN on the engine case, in addition to displaying the full VIN on the front frame tubes. It is important that the the VIN number on the front frame tubes matches the VIN on your registration before you sell or buy a motorcycle. Also, if you want to upgrade your bike to a new custom frame, you must apply for a new title.

As shown above, the 10th character represents the model year of the bike.

Scams to Avoid

Whether you are buying or purchasing a motorcycle online, knowing what scams to look out for will save you from a lot of trouble. While anyone is able to obtain a motorcycle VIN just from walking past a bike, scammers can clone the VIN from a legitimate bike and put it on a stolen bike. They will then register the stolen bike, making it difficult for authorities to track and locate. If you purchase a stolen motorcycle and the authorities find it, you will lose the motorcycle and the money you spent buying the motorcycle. To avoid being a victim of this crime, check to make sure the VIN on the bike matches the registration. You can also do a VIN check and see all the previous registrations of the bike. When a  bike has been registered in multiple states over a short period of time,  cease all communication with the seller immediately. Then contact the local police department to report a potentially stolen motorcycle.

It’s important to note that giving out your VIN is not the same as giving out your social security number. The VIN is a vital piece of information to complete the transaction between the buyer and seller. Releasing your VIN to the buyer does not mean they’re going to steal your motorcycle’s identity. However, it is always important to be aware of potential scams. We suggest having all the proper documents of the motorcycle and completing a VIN check before finalizing the sale.

Another way scammers can get a hold of your personal information is sending you emails or texts containing links to fraudulent websites that claim to check your vehicle’s history if you entering your credit card information. If you want to do a VIN check on your motorcycle before you sell, always go to the site directly and never click any link sent by a stranger that claim to be taking you there.

If you are serious about purchasing a used bike online, or interested in your bike’s history, you can order a standard VIN check through Kelley Blue Book for $24.99. However, listing your motorcycle’s VIN on ChopperExchange is optional and is up to you to disclose that information with the buyer. If you have any further questions about VINs or buying/selling a motorcycle, please call us at (800) 523-7274 or email us at www.info@chopperexchange.com

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