If you are planning on buying a motorcycle, whether from a friend, from an online marketplace like Kijiji, or from a used motorcycle dealer, you need to know that everything with that motorcycle is in order.
Of course, motorcycles aren’t the safest vehicles on the road, so if you are driving one, you want to make sure that everything is in working condition, not to mention legal.
You need to know that the bike is actually as advertised, that it’s not stolen, that it’s not a lemon, and more. Let’s talk about performing a VIN check on your motorcycle, how to find the VIN, what the numbers mean, and what a VIN check can tell you about your bike.
Where to Find the VIN on Your Motorcycle
If you want to do a VIN check on your motorcycle, the first thing that you will need to do is to find the VIN. Where the VIN on your motorcycle is located will depend on the model and manufacturer, but there are a few places where it is usually found.
For the majority of motorcycles, the VIN can be found to the right of the headstock tube, right on the frame where the forks pass through, right under the throttle. The VIN should be stamped deep into the frame. The VIN may also be located somewhere on the frame near the motor. This will usually be located on a metal tag stamped above the motor on the frame.
How to Read Motorcycle VIN Numbers
Now that you have found the VIN number on your bike, what do all of those digits mean? Sure, you can use a VIN decoder, but those often cost money. If you want to know everything possible about your bike, you want to know what those numbers mean.
Keep in mind that your VIN number is unique to your vehicle or motorcycle, and no two VIN numbers made within the same 30 year period can match each other. Let’s quickly go over how to decode the VIN on your motorcycle.
The First 3 Characters
The first 3 letters or digits of the VIN on your motorcycle are going to be related to where the bike was made and what it is. The first character represents the country of origin, the second character represents the specific manufacturer, and the third character (either a 1 or an A), indicates that the vehicle is a motorcycle.
Characters 4 Through 8
The second section of the VIN, which consists of characters 4 through 8, is known as the vehicle descriptor section.
The fourth character in the VIN number represents what sort of vehicle it is.
- C = scooter
- B = business or commuter model
- N = single cylinder sport/street
- G = multiple cylinder sport/street
- F = family
- S = off road
- V = v-type engine
The fifth character represents the engine displacement.
- A = 49cc or lower
- B = 50-69cc
- C = 70-79cc
- D = 80-89cc
- E = 90-99cc
- F = 100-124cc
- G = 125-149cc
- H = 150-199cc
- J = 200-249cc
- K = 250-399cc
- M = 400-499cc
- N = 500-599cc
- P = 600-699cc
- R = 700-749cc
- S = 750-849c
- T = 850-999cc
- U = 1000-1099cc
- V = 1100-1199cc
- W = 1200-1299cc
- Y = 1400-1499cc
- Z = 1500cc and higher
The sixth character stands for the type of engine.
- 1 = 2 stroke single
- 2 = 2 stroke twin
- 3 = 2 stroke triple or four
- 4 = 4 stroke single
- 5 = 4 stroke twin
Next, the seventh digit indicates the sequence of design, and the eighth digit represents the model version.
Keep in mind that the ninth character is a digit used to verify the legitimacy of the VIN, and does not actually provide information about the bike.
The Tenth and Eleventh Characters
The tenth and eleventh spaces of the VIN represent the code for the year and the plant which the bike was manufactured in.
- X = 1999
- Y = 2000
- 1 = 2001
- 2 = 2002
- 3 = 2003
- 4 = 2004
- 5 = 2005
- 6 = 2006
- 7 = 2007
- 8 = 2008
- 9 = 2009
- A = 2010
- B = 2011
- C = 2012
- D = 2013
The last 8 Characters
The final 8 characters of the VIN represents the motorcycle’s serial number.
Why Get a Motorcycle VIN Check?
Here is a list of reasons why you should always perform a VIN check on your motorcycle, particularly if you are buying one that is pre-owned.
You cannot always take the word of used motorcycle dealers at face value. Some may try to pass off an older bike as being much newer.
- A VIN check will tell you exactly when the motorcycle was purchased
- A VIN check can also tell you if there is a lien on the motorcycle, as well as any sort of outstanding debt
- A VIN check is important to perform on a pre-owned motorcycle because it can tell you if the bike was ever stolen and recovered, or even if the bike is still labelled as stolen
- A motorcycle VIN check can tell you if the bike was ever in an accident, what the damage was, and whether or not repairs were made
- A VIN check will also inform you if the vehicle in question was totaled, if it was salvaged, or if it was branded as a lemon
- A VIN check can also inform you if the bike ever suffered from any hail or flood damage.
- A VIN check will also tell if you if the motorcycle in question ever had any insurance claims filed on it.
- A VIN check can also inform you of special purpose designations, so for instance, if the motorcycle was used for something like law enforcement.
Motorcycle VIN Check – Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that there are many things which a motorcycle VIN check can tell you, and you will learn whether or not there is money owed on it, if it is roadworthy, if it is a legal vehicle, and whether or not it is actually what it is advertised as being. Whenever you buy a secondhand bike, performing a VIN check is strongly recommended.