Dear Car Talk:
I'm in the market for a new (to me) truck. I'm looking for a 2015-2017 Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra 1500.
Is there a way that I can tell the bed size, engine, etc., from the VIN? -- Bill
Yes. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), usually seen from outside the car just inside the windshield, is a code that provides access to a wealth of information.
You can read some of the information yourself. For instance, the first few digits tell you the country the car was manufactured in and which company sold it. The rest, unfortunately, is in code that is created by each manufacturer.
That's the information you want. And what you really want is called a "build sheet."
By entering the VIN, a dealer can get a build sheet, which is a printout of how the car is equipped. That includes engine size, transmission, bed size, interior specifications and even factory options.
If you have a friendly dealer nearby (perhaps they'll be interested in servicing your new truck and be willing to help you out now?), they can put a VIN in their computer and print you out a build sheet in a few seconds.
There's some information on the web that can help you decode your specific VIN. If you're willing to do some research, you may be able to tease out the information you want on your own.
But most of the online services that will decode your VIN for you will charge you something for it. And not all of them will even offer you a build sheet.
CarFax is the most famous of the companies that uses VINs to provide potential buyers with reports about the history of the car's title. That's not a bad idea when you're buying a used car, but the sample reports we've seen from CarFax don't provide a lot of build data. What you want will come most readily from a dealer, Bill.
So, bring some donuts and a few VINs, and see if you can make a friend in the parts department.