How to Run a VIN Check on a Motorcycle to Verify Its History

Getting a VIN History Report Can Protect You From Buying a Potential Lemon

Have you ever considered buying a used motorcycle only to second-guess yourself, wondering if it was stolen or salvaged? Running a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) check can give you peace of mind that the bike you’re interested in buying doesn’t have any red flags like major damage, theft, or odometer fraud in its history.

This comprehensive guide will explain everything you need to know about motorcycle VIN checks so you can make an informed decision when buying a used bike. We’ll cover what a VIN is, where to find it on a motorcycle, the meaning behind the VIN numbers, and most importantly, how to get a full VIN report from reputable sources. Let’s get started!

What is a VIN on a Motorcycle?

Every vehicle, including motorcycles, has a unique 17-digit VIN that identifies that specific bike. The VIN acts as the motorcycle’s fingerprint, distinguishing it from every other vehicle in operation.

Manufacturers assign each motorcycle a VIN during production. This number stays with the motorcycle for its lifetime, from manufacture until destruction.

The VIN contains key details about the motorcycle like make, model year, manufacturing plant, and more. Law enforcement and insurance providers use VINs to track vehicles. You can also run a VIN search to uncover the full history of any motorcycle.

Where to Find the VIN on a Motorcycle

The VIN is stamped or engraved onto the frame of every motorcycle. But where exactly should you look to find it?

  • On the steering head below the handlebars
  • Stamped into the right side of the frame near the rear wheel
  • On the engine case near the crankshaft
  • Printed on a data plate affixed to the frame

Consult your owner’s manual or dealership if you have difficulty locating the VIN. Some manufacturers also list the VIN on the ownership documents.

How to Read a Motorcycle VIN Number

At first glance, a motorcycle VIN appears to be just a random string of letters and numbers. But each character in the VIN conveys important information about that specific bike. Here is how to decipher VIN characters to understand the hidden meaning:

1st character – Country of origin (U.S. = 1, 2, 3, 4)

2nd character – Manufacturer (Honda = H, Yamaha = Y)

3rd character – Vehicle type (Motorcycle = 1, 2, P)

4th to 8th characters – Attributes like model, engine type, etc.

9th character – Check digit for verifying VIN accuracy

10th character – Model year (A = 1980, B = 1981, etc.)

11th character – Factory plant location

12th to 17th characters – Production sequence number

So a VIN starting with JS1 can be decoded as a Japanese-made Suzuki motorcycle. Each position reveals key data if you know how to interpret the codes.

Benefits of Running a Motorcycle VIN Check Before Buying

Checking a motorcycle’s VIN before purchase is crucial to avoid buying a bike with serious issues in its past. Here are key reasons you should get a VIN report:

  • Verify ownership – Ensure the seller legitimately owns the bike. Crosscheck the VIN with the title to spot potential fraud.
  • Check for theft – A VIN check can instantly reveal if the motorcycle was reported stolen. About 46,000 motorcycles are stolen annually in the U.S.
  • Look for liens – See if there are any outstanding loans or leases on the motorcycle that you may be responsible for.
  • Find mileage inconsistencies – Odometer rollbacks are not uncommon. A VIN history establishes the true mileage which impacts value.
  • Spot salvage titles – Vehicles deemed total losses get branded as salvage. This significantly drops the bike’s worth.
  • View accident history – Discover if the motorcycle was involved in any major accidents reported to insurance or police.
  • Check safety recalls – See if the motorcycle has any outstanding manufacturer safety recalls requiring repair.
  • Verify service history – Some VIN checks include maintenance records to help gauge how well the bike was cared for.

How to Run a VIN Check on a Motorcycle

There are a few different ways to obtain a VIN report for a motorcycle. Here are step-by-step instructions for each method:

Online Paid VIN Check Services

  1. Locate the VIN – Find the 17-digit VIN printed on the motorcycle frame. Double check that you have the correct number.
  2. Visit an online VIN check website – Sites like Carfax and Cyclechex allow you to purchase a VIN report for a small fee.
  3. Enter the VIN – Input the motorcycle’s 17-character VIN into the search bar on the site.
  4. Pay for the report – Select your payment option, usually $10-$20 for a basic motorcycle VIN check from these services.
  5. View full VIN report – After payment processes, you gain access to the full VIN search results compiled from various sources.

Police Motorcycle VIN Checks

  1. Obtain the VIN – Locate the unique VIN number printed on the bike’s frame.
  2. Visit your local police – Bring the VIN to your local police station. Call first to ask if they run VIN checks for civilians.
  3. Provide VIN and paperwork – Supply police with the 17-digit VIN. Some stations may ask for motorcycle registration or your driver’s license as well.
  4. Receive VIN report – Police will search the VIN in national crime and title databases. The results they provide indicate if the bike is stolen, totaled, or has other red flags.

Manufacturer VIN Checks

  1. Get the VIN – Find the motorcycle VIN engraved on the frame near the engine or steering head.
  2. Contact the manufacturer – Call or email the bike’s manufacturer and request to run a VIN check. For example, contact Honda with your VIN if checking a Honda motorcycle.
  3. Provide VIN and personal info – Supply the representative with your full name, VIN, and contact information so they can email or mail you the results.
  4. Review VIN history – Manufacturer VIN reports contain specs of that specific motorcycle like original color, where it was first sold, recall eligibility, and more.

Questions a Motorcycle VIN Check Can Answer

Running a VIN search taps into vehicle history databases to uncover details about that specific motorcycle, such as:

  • Is this bike listed as stolen?
  • Has this motorcycle ever been deemed salvage or totaled?
  • Are there any outstanding loans or leases still tied to this VIN?
  • Has the mileage been rolled back or tampered with?
  • Has this motorcycle been involved in any major accidents?
  • Are there any manufacturer safety recalls still outstanding for this bike that require repair?
  • What is the actual model year, engine size, color, and features of this motorcycle according to the manufacturer?

The more comprehensive the VIN check service, the more questions it can answer about the motorcycle’s history and title status. This paints a clearer picture of any issues to be aware of before buying the used bike.

Red Flags to Watch for in Motorcycle VIN Reports

When reviewing your VIN search results, keep an eye out for these common red flags:

  • Stolen motorcycle – Bike listed in the NICB’s National Crime Information Center.
  • Total loss/salvage title – Deemed non-repairable by insurance company after a major incident.
  • Odometer rollback – True mileage cannot be confirmed due to tampering or disconnect.
  • Major damage incident – Bike sustained extensive damage requiring major repairs.
  • Safety recall needed – Manufacturer recall was issued but repair not completed for this VIN.
  • Liens attached – Open loan or lease tied to the motorcycle not disclosed by seller.
  • Identity mismatch – VIN plate does not match the number listed on the title documents.
  • Voided factory warranty – Issue with original bike caused the manufacturer’s warranty to be cancelled.

Any of these red flags should give you pause about proceeding with the sale. Crosscheck concerning findings from the VIN report with the seller or your insurance agent.

Estimating a Motorcycle’s Value Based on VIN Details

The VIN contains important clues about a bike’s specs and history that affect valuation. With insights from a VIN check, you can better gauge what a fair asking price is for the motorcycle.

  • Start with MSRP – The manufacturer’s suggested retail price when new is a baseline to start from.
  • Account for modifications – Added parts like exhaust, gearing, or electronics can increase value.
  • Mileage and condition – Lower miles and good condition equals higher value. Accidents decrease value.
  • Title status – Salvaged or totaled bikes are worth 40% less than clean title bikes in good condition.
  • Model year – Newer model years typically command a higher price. But vintage collector models may appreciate.
  • Model specs – Higher performance engines, limited editions, and more desirable models boost value.
  • Maintenance records – Regular servicing and repairs help retain value compared to neglected bikes.

Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Motorcycle

  • Verify VIN – Run a vehicle history report to uncover any red flags tied to the VIN. Crosscheck it with the title.
  • Examine thoroughly – Carefully inspect the bike for signs of accidents, wear, leaks, rust, and other issues. Test ride it.
  • Review title – Check the title matches the VIN, seller’s ID, and vehicle details. Make sure no liens are attached.
  • Assess fair value – Use VIN details like mileage and trim to estimate a fair asking price compared to similar bikes for sale.
  • Get written bill of sale – Have a dated bill of sale signed by the seller detailing your purchase, price paid, and VIN.
  • Use secure payment – For your protection, pay by certified check or money order rather than cash or personal check.

FAQs: VIN Checks for Motorcycles

How much does a motorcycle VIN check cost?

Online motorcycle VIN search services typically charge between $10-$20 for a basic report. Police may provide free VIN checks as a public service if you visit the station in person. Manufacturers usually charge $30-$50 for a full factory VIN report.

Where can I run a free motorcycle VIN search?

Most VIN checks require payment since they access private databases. But some insurer websites like Progressive offer limited free VIN searches to see if a bike was totaled or stolen. Your insurance agent may also provide a free VIN search for you.

Can I run a VIN check with just a motorcycle’s license plate number?

No, you need the full 17-digit VIN to run a comprehensive vehicle history search. License plates can be changed or swapped between vehicles. Only the VIN uniquely identifies that specific motorcycle for tracking purposes.

Should I run a VIN check on a new motorcycle?

A VIN check is still recommended even for new motorcycles. While less likely, manufacturing defects or damage during transport can happen. And VIN-specific info like recall eligibility and manufacture date is useful for new bikes too.

How can I verify a motorcycle VIN without seeing the actual bike?

Some VIN check services offer online-only searches if you only have the VIN available, without direct access to the vehicle. This still provides valuable data like title history and theft records. But an in-person VIN verification is best practice before buying any used vehicle.


  • Protect yourself from buying a potentially unsafe, stolen, or salvaged motorcycle by running a VIN search before making any purchase.
  • Look up the unique 17-digit VIN stamped on the bike frame to access full vehicle history records from various reporting databases.
  • Paid VIN checks, police reports, and manufacturer searches can reveal title status, accidents, recalls, liens, and accurate mileage about that specific motorcycle based on the VIN alone.
  • Make sure to thoroughly verify the VIN on any bike you’re considering buying by crosschecking it with titles and physical inspection.
  • Review VIN reports carefully for any red flags that may indicate the motorcycle has serious past issues that decrease safety and value.

With a small investment in a motorcycle VIN search, you gain peace of mind knowing you are making an informed purchase and avoid buying a potential lemon. Ride safe!

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