The vehicle identification number (or VIN for short) is almost like a fingerprint for a vehicle. It’s unique and present on the majority of RVs. It confirms various pieces of information about the motorhome, trailer, camper, or other RV such as in which country it was made, the year it was produced, engine type, body style, and much more.
Therefore, it doesn’t only serve as a type of unique identifier – it’s that too – but conveys much more.
Do RVs Have VIN Numbers?
Yes, they do.
Unlike campers or trailers, RV motorhomes typically come with at least two VINs (but one is still possible).
With two VINs, one for the front chassis/cab, and the other for the coach area. It is because many RV manufacturers purchase a completed vehicle initially from one manufacturer with their supplied VIN on it, and then produce the RV couch section after that. Then once they’re done, they may add a second VIN to reflect their work.
The most important one is the coach area where you’ll spend most of your time.
Older RVs dating back over 4 decades to pre-1981 still have VIN numbers. However, with these vintage RVs, it is often located in an unusual place and requires a bit of investigation to find them! The metal plate is usually affixed to the RV pretty solidly too, so it’s unlike to have gone missing over the years. But when purchasing a vintage model, it’s a good idea not just to confirm the VIN from the current owner, but also where it’s physically located. It saves getting frustrated hunting it down later.
VIN numbers were standardized for various types of RVs from Class A’s right down to tiny teardrop campers from 1980 onward. The VIN is now a standard 17-digit code, so once you know how it breaks down, it’s easy to figure out. There’s no need to use an RV VIN decoder, but you can if you wish.
Read Also: RV Barter and Trade
RV Documentation Can Confirm the VIN Number
The documentation that comes with the RV such as its registration information, the title, insurance paperwork, and sometimes the confirmation of a sale (not always), will include the VIN. This is useful to look it up to check on its history, for instance.
However, it’s also sensible to check physically for the VIN plate on or in the RV too. It should not be missing or appear tampered with in any way.
Where is the VIN Number on an RV?
For a motorhome, the VIN is likely to be located in:
- The steering column
- Dashboard close to the windshield (driver’s side)
- RV documentation in the glove compartment
- The RV’s firewall
- Front of the engine
- The driver’s door or near the passenger’s door
Read Also: RV Solar Basics
How to Decode an RV VIN Number
The VIN is a 17-digit code filled with numbers and letters. There are no unusual characters within it.
Here is how to decode the RV VIN number:
1st Digit – Country of origin for the RV
2nd Digit – The manufacturer of record for the RV
3rd Digit – The brand of the RV
4th Digit – The product line or series the RV relates to
5th and 6th Digit – Style for the body (confirms the type of RV)
7th Digit – The restraints present
8th Digit – Engine type (Diesel, Gasoline, etc.)
9th Digit – The security check digit (it allows the VIN to be verified that it’s not fictitious)
10th Digit – The manufactured year. (See special exception below)
11th Digit – The assembler’s or manufacturer’s plant
12th-17th Digits – The serial number of the RV
VIN Year of Manufacture Has a Special Exception
It’s worth noting that even in the modern VIN number era post-1979, the 10th digit representing the manufacturing year was changed in format.
From 1980 to 2000, letters were used to denote the year beginning with Y in 2000 and working in reverse order through the alphabet. However, this changed initially to using numerals beginning in 2001 running 1 through 9, before switching to letters beginning with A in 2010, at which point the alphabet was used in its standard order.
See this chart below to learn the year of an RV:
Do Serial Numbers and VIN Numbers Match Up?
Before 1980, VIN numbers and serial numbers were identical. However, this all changed in 1980/81.
The standardized VIN number system came into force. At which point, the unique six-digit serial number at the very end of the VIN only comprises part of the VIN as a whole (the modern VIN is 17-digits long for an RV).
The serial number is still useful though. When product recalls occur in a batch of RVs, or specific parts need replacing, manufacturers or RV dealers will often request the serial number. This ensures the correct parts are provided to fit that exact make and model of RV.
Do Travel Trailers Have VIN Numbers?
As a vehicle that travels on the road, travel trailers have VINs too.
Trailer VIN Number Location
If you were hoping for a single, standard location for a trailer VIN, sorry to disappoint you!
The most likely locations are:
- The underside of the rear or the front
- Close to an axle
- The trailer’s hitch or tongue
- Storage cabinets or compartments both at the exterior or interior
If you’ve drawn a blank, then you might try also try:
- Below the sink
- On the door frame itself
- Inside the wheel well (hard to spot and typically covered in muck)
Do Vintage Trailers Have a VIN?
While VINs have been used with trailers from the 50s, the standardization of them and their required use didn’t become a reality until 1981.
Furthermore, a vintage trailer either may not have a VIN at all, or it is an esoteric one that reveals nothing much about the trailer. Typical of the era, just the serial number (6 or 7 digits, mainly) were used.
Rarely was the VIN plate added to older trailers too. So, you could be hunting in vain. If they’re still in existence, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer. It’s also worth looking for any paperwork provided by the previous owner, including insurance documentation, because they may have the VIN details supplied on them, and not even know it.
Do Campers Have VIN Numbers?
The diminutive camper of all descriptions should come with a VIN number. Just because they’re cute and towable doesn’t mean they’re all forgotten in the VIN stakes.
Camper VIN Number Location
A little searching is necessary, preferably in daylight hours, to find a camper VIN. It won’t always be in the same place as a travel trailer VIN, so be forewarned there.
The most likely locations are:
- The interior side of the main door
- Close to the tongue
- Compartments for storage (external or internal)
Beyond that, you’ll need to scour around to spot it. But if the camper is post-1980, it’ll be there somewhere.
Do Vintage Campers Have a VIN?
It’s much the same story here as with vintage trailers.
Most likely, it’s a short serial number as the VIN. And if so, you’ll need to look around to locate it.
Is the Camper or Trailer Stolen?
There is no way to know just by looking at it.
However, when you see the VIN, the relevant state’s DMV can perform a search for you. Also, there are online services like FaxVin that can perform searches for stolen RVs or a towable like a camper or trailer.
A detailed VIN history search can confirm:
- Known odometer readings in the past
- Defects and product recalls of record
- Past thefts, and if the RV/trailer/camper was officially recovered
- History of accidents and damage from them
- Debt history, including outstanding liens or past repossessions (this confirms if an outstanding loan is still on the vehicle)
- Specifications, including color, make, model, etc.
- Fire, flood, or hail damage (highly relevant for campers or trailers with inferior roofs)
Do Homemade Trailers or Campers Have a VIN Number?
The distinction between homemade campers or homemade trailers is that when they’re either being purchased or sold on, they’ll need to have a valid VIN to legally do so.
However, it’s a good idea to always have a VIN on all your vehicles, whether it’s self-built or purchased as a mass-manufactured towable.
How to Create a VIN Number for a Trailer or Camper?
If you cannot find the VIN and you’ve tried everything we’ve mentioned, then you’ll need to arrange for a new VIN to be created.
The relevant state’s Department of Motor Vehicles office is where you need to submit the right information, pay the fees, and get a VIN set up for your trailer or camper. It’ll be the same process for either. Motorhomes should already have a VIN, but one can also be requested if needed.
While each state’s DMV operates a little differently, here’s a rough idea of the steps:
- Talk to the state DMV. They can confirm whether the weight of the camper or trailer makes it a requirement to have a VIN. Also, they can confirm their procedures. ID will be checked before processing any request.
- Know the weight of your towable. If you don’t know the weight, confirm it as this will be required on the forms.
- Get inspected for safety. To receive a VIN, the homemade towable must have a safety inspection. This is either performed by a certified garage or the DMV.
- Valuation details. Check with the DMV what they exactly require here.
- Make an insurance application. A document by a notary how the homemade camper or trailer was constructed, including purchase receipts of materials used (states differ on this).
- Complete the forms. Pay the appropriate fees. Wait for your title and VIN; it requires a few weeks.
Do bear in mind that RV insurance companies will ask for the VIN. They may also request the serial number initially though, but the VIN is the common piece of needed information. You may find that the camper or trailer is uninsurable without it, especially if it’s got a few years on it or is homemade, and the insurer is a bit sketchy about covering it already.
Even if you think that you don’t need a VIN number for your RV, it’s always advisable to get one and could be a legal requirement. It’s safe to assume it probably is, so verify its existence before purchasing an RV, trailer, or camper. And if there’s no VIN, dig further to find out if it had one originally? Because without a VIN, detailed checks on the history, whether it’s stolen, and other pertinent facts are unavailable. That could be intentional if it’s stolen, so tread with caution here.