Whether you’re buying a car from a dealership or a private seller, it’s highly likely that they won’t tell you everything about it.
This may mean you have to take matters into your own hands and find out yourself.
Here’s a guide on how to find out what options your car came with.
What Are New Car Options?
“Options” refers to upgrades added to a car apart from what comes with its standard package.
Most makes and models nowadays have a range of optional extras to customize a vehicle.
Those options typically include a more powerful engine, a slightly different body style, or an upgraded entertainment system.
Why It’s Important To Know Your Car’s Options
When it comes time for you to take out insurance on your vehicle or sell it, knowing what it came with is extremely important.
For example, if your vehicle had a significant upgrade on its engine or cosmetics, it could make a significant impact on your insurance premium or the car’s resale value.
How Do I Find Out What Options My Car Was Ordered With?
There are four common ways through which people find out the options their car was ordered with, most of which involve using the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).
Here’s what you can do:
1. Decode the VIN number
This may sound slightly complex for some, but deciphering a VIN number isn’t impossible.
Some manufacturers may even provide tools to help you break down the VIN, so you may have to visit the car manufacturer’s website or run a general Google search.
If you can’t find anything useful, here’s a breakdown of what a VIN means, according to the position of the numbers and letters:
- 1st – Country code to indicate where the vehicle was manufactured
- 2nd to 3rd – Manufacturer’s name code
- 4th to 8th – Engine type, brand, model, body style
- 9th – Vehicle security code
- 10th – Model year
- 11th – Assembly plant where the vehicle was manufactured
- 12th to 17th – The vehicle’s serial number
There are plenty of instances in which there are several VINs with the same initial characters.
This is typically the case with cars from the same brand.
The options are found in the final digits of the VIN and may have to be decoded by the manufacturer.
2. Use a VIN decoder
Luckily, there are plenty of free VIN lookup services online that can help you decode a VIN; it’s just a matter of choosing a reputable website.
Websites will generally provide details for free but the information may be limited and payment may be required for further information.
This could be ideal for those who don’t want the hassle of deciphering the VIN themselves, but do bear in mind that a VIN decoder may not include many factory options in the data it pulls.
3. Get a complete vehicle history report
Sometimes referred to as a VIN report, vehicle history reports are an easy way to gain access to your vehicle’s information instantaneously.
To avoid having to run an independent vehicle history search, you can purchase a full vehicle history report (VIN report) from a third-party website.
Beyond finding out your car’s history, you’ll be able to find its type of engine, model, body style, and whether it’s been involved in any accidents.
4. Contact the dealership or manufacturer
This is probably the most accurate way to find out what options your car was ordered with.
Some manufacturers may have tools on their website which just require you to input the VIN number but, if they don’t, you may have to get in touch with them.
If you do call the car manufacturer, then make sure you have the VIN on hand while doing so.
More Facts About Car VINs
What is a vehicle identification number?
A car’s VIN is a series of letters and numbers unique to your vehicle – essentially, your vehicle’s fingerprint. It is a more comprehensive means to differentiate your vehicle from others on the road.
How can I find my car’s VIN?
The vehicle identification number can typically be found under the windshield on your car’s dashboard. You can also find it etched into the engine compartment or on the door jamb. If you can’t find it on the vehicle, you should be able to find it on vehicle ownership documents such as the title or registration.
Can I add options to my car?
It is possible to add options to both a new car and one that you’ve had for a while. For a new car, you have to talk to a sales representative at the dealership and inform them of what options you’d like, after which they’ll make the order accordingly.
If you want to add options to your car after the purchase has already been completed, then those additions will be labeled as “aftermarket.” If a dealership doesn’t do aftermarket upgrades, then you may have to purchase them from third-party companies that may also have to do the installation.
Do note that adding options aftermarket could, in some cases, void your vehicle’s warranty.
Why is my VIN short?
This is usually the case for vehicles manufactured between 1954 through 1981, as VINs didn’t follow a standard format during this time and some cars built before 1954 may not even have a VIN. If your VIN is unusually short, then you’ll more than likely have to reach out to a manufacturer to have them decipher it for you.
Can a VIN change?
A VIN can’t, at any point, be changed. This is because it serves various purposes besides revealing details of a vehicle. Only identifiers such as a car’s engine or chassis number can be changed after those parts have been replaced.