Just like cars every travel trailer, camper and RV has a VIN number, you can use this to check the history of the vehicle or trailer. It’s important to do a VIN number check before you buy a trailer or vehicle.
VIN numbers on trailers is the same as it is for a car, you can use it to check the history of the trailer.
In this article, I will cover all the common questions asked that are related to travel trailer VIN numbers.
What Is A VIN Number?
VIN is short for Vehicle Identification Numbers. All road-legal vehicles and trailers should have a VIN number by law.
Since 1977 every car and trailer manufactured is given a VIN number, which is a unique number for that specific vehicle. Think of it like the trailer or car’s fingerprint that can be used to identify it.
The VIN number is printed as a single line of 17 characters made up of numbers and letters, VIN numbers from before 1981 may have fewer characters.
The VIN number is not just made of random characters, it provides a lot of information about the trailer or vehicle. The VIN number can tell you the year and country of manufacture, as well as the serial number, color, and factory of manufacture.
How To Decode VIN Numbers on Trailers
A VIN number is essential for identifying a vehicle or trailer. To decode a trailer VIN number you will need to know what the seven different parts mean.
Manufacturer Code – this can also be known as the world manufacturer index and shows where the trailer was built.
Model Number – this is the trailer’s model series including the engine and body type if applicable.
Length – the length of the trailer in the foot.
Axles – the number of axles on the trailer.
Check Digit – This is calculated on the basis of other information on the VIN number in accordance with the U.S Department of Transportation.
Year – the year the trailer was manufactured.
Serial Number – the serial number specific to that trailer.
From all the above information you can find out everything that you would need to know about the trailer.
Do trailers have VIN numbers or serial numbers?
Trailers have both serial numbers and VIN numbers. The serial number is the last six characters of the VIN number.
The serial number is not unique to the trailer, but the VIN number is.
How Do I Find The VIN Number On A Trailer?
Manufacturers tend to put the VIN number in different places on trailers as there is no specific location.
The most common places to find the VIN number on a trailer is on the tongue, near the axles, front left of the sidewall, or near the hitch. The VIN number will be on a metal plate or it might also be on the Federal certification label on the trailer.
The best places to look for your VIN number on your trailer are:.
The Tongue – start your search looking on the tongue of the trailer, and where it connects to the hitch. Newer trailers are most likely to put the VIN number here.
The underside and inside of the tongue beams are protected from the elements, hence why it’s most likely to be there.
Near The Axles – if it’s not on the tongue then the next place to look is the axle or axles. Start with the front axle and work your way back.
Check the outside and inside frame, the wheel guard and the underside of the frame.
The Rest Of The Frame – if you still haven’t found the VIN number then you will have to closely examine the rest of the frame. Check for areas covered in rust or dirt and any strange shapes or divots that could be a plate.
Inside The Door – if you are looking for the VIN number on a travel trailer or camper it could be on the inside of the door or on the doorframe.
Inside The Cabinets – the VIN number could also be hiding inside a cabinet or storage area in the camper. It can also be on a fold-away table or bench, have a look through the whole camper for a sticker with the VIN number on it.
Outside Storage – it could also be hiding in an outside storage area, check inside the doors and the walls of the compartment.
If you are looking for your VIN number for your RV try these places too:
- Steering column
- Vehicle firewall
- Radiator support bracket
- Inside wheel arch
- Machined pad on front of engine
- Front left corner near the bottom of the sidewall
Old trailers may not have a VIN number, they didn’t become standard practice until 1981, so if your trailer is older than that it may not have one.
What to Do If You Can’t Find the VIN
If you think your trailer should have a VIN but you’ve searched it thoroughly and still can’t find it, there are a few things you can do.
Check Your Documentation – If you can find old insurance documents, the VIN number is likely to be on them.
Ask the Previous Owner – The previous owner might have the registration or insurance documents that have the VIN number on them. It doesn’t matter if the documents are outdated, the VIN number will still be the same.
Get A New VIN Assigned – If you have tried all of the above and still can’t find the VIN then you can get another one assigned to your trailer. You will have to prove to the DMV that you own the trailer, and pay for them to do their own inspection.
This process can vary in each state so make sure that you check with your local DMV.
How To Check A Trailer’s VIN Number
Before you purchase any vehicle or trailer it’s always a good idea to check the VIN number. You will want to check that the VIN on the trailer’s title matches the actual VIN number on the trailer.
When looking at a prospective trailer to purchase, follow these steps to check the VIN number.
- Make sure the trailer is parked in an open area so you can easily walk around and see every angle. Use a flashlight to help you search the frame and see the VIN number easier.
- Search the areas detailed above, specifically the tongue, axles and frame of the trailer for the VIN number.
- Note down the 17 character VIN number, if you can’t find the VIN then don’t even consider purchasing the trailer as you can’t verify it.
- When you have the VIN number you can get a free VIN lookup at the national insurance crime bureau. Just enter the digits and you will get all the information it holds on the trailer.
What Does A VIN Check Show?
When you have received your free VIN report you will receive key information about the trailer, the report should include.
This is the most important thing to check as previous owners will be reluctant to tell you if the trailer has been involved in an accident. The VIN report will include all reports of collisions or accidents the trailer has had, as police and insurance companies have to report these and the VIN numbers involved.
Sometimes campers and trailers have airbags recalled because they are unsafe, you will want to use the VIN report to check that the airbags are safe.
The service and repair history of the trailer will be included on the VIN report. You will want to know that the trailer or camper has been well maintained. If the trailer has ever been flooded it will also show up on the VIN check, proceed with caution with any vehicle that has been flooded.
If the camper or trailer has an odometer then check the miles on the trailer and in the VIN check match. If they are massively different it could mean that the odometer has been tampered with.
Check that the title information matches the current owner’s name, just to make sure that the trailer is not stolen. If the title is “salvaged” it means that the trailer was in an accident and insurance has declared it a write-off. It also means that it is illegal to drive or tow on the roads.
How can you tell the year of a trailer?
The 10th character on the VIN number shows you the year the trailer was manufactured, it will either be a letter or a number. The table below will show you the year the character relates to.
Some letters and numbers look similar, like I, O and Q look like 1 and 0 so they have been excluded.
|A – 1980
|L – 1990
|Y – 2000
|A – 2010
|L – 2020
|B – 1981
|M – 1991
|1 – 2001
|B – 2011
|M – 2021
|C – 1982
|N – 1992
|2 – 2002
|C – 2012
|N – 2022
|D – 1983
|P – 1993
|3 – 2003
|D – 2013
|P – 2023
|E – 1984
|R – 1994
|4 – 2004
|E – 2014
|R – 2024
|F – 1985
|S – 1995
|5 – 2005
|F – 2015
|S – 2025
|G – 1986
|T – 1996
|6 – 2006
|G – 2016
|T – 2026
|H – 1987
|V – 1997
|7 – 2007
|H – 2017
|V – 2027
|J – 1988
|W – 1998
|8 – 2008
|J – 2018
|W – 2028
|K – 1989
|X – 1999
|9 – 2009
|K – 2019
|X – 2029
Some of the characters overlap, however, there is a 30 year difference so you should be able to tell if the trailer is from 1989 or 2019.
What Year Is Z In A VIN Number?
As you can see from the table above, Z is not used as a character to display the year, because it could easily get confused for a 2. For this reason Z, O, Q, and I are not used to identify the year.
If you are looking to buy a trailer that has a Z for the year then it is likely a fake VIN number, and will not be registered in the USA.
How Do I Get A VIN Number For My Vintage Travel Trailer?
If you have a vintage travel trailer which is any trailer that was made before 1981, then it probably won’t have a VIN number.
If you can’t find any documentation that has the VIN number on it then you will have to apply for one with your state’s DMV.
If you own the trailer then you are responsible for the trailer’s VIN number. If you are buying the trailer then the seller will need to apply for the VIN.
The process to get a new VIN will depend on which state you are in. Check with your local DMV office to see what you need to do.
Usually you will have to fill out an application form for a new VIN, have an inspection by the DMV. You will also need to prove ownership of the trailer, usually by bill of sale. Of course, there will be fees associated with this.
Do Pop-Up Campers Have VIN Numbers?
Yes, pop-up campers will have a VIN number, unless they are older than 1981. Unfortunately, like trailers the VIN number can be hard to find as there is no standard place for them.
Check the frame, or tongue for a sticker or plate with the VIN number.
Where Is The VIN Number On A Pop-up Camper?
VIN numbers can be hard to find on pop up campers, and can vary between make, model and year.
The best places to look on your pop-up camper for the VIN number are:
- The lower side of the front left frame
- Inside cabinets
- Inside the door
- Exterior storage
How To Keep Accurate Records For Your Travel Trailer
Like any vehicle it’s important to keep full and up to date records of your RV, camper or travel trailer. This helps when selling and insuring it.
If you are a new owner and unsure which documents are important, here is a quick list of things that you should keep hold of.
- Purchase documents – The purchase documents are important to keep, this is proof that you have bought the trailer.
- Damage reports – Any damage that happens to your trailer, no matter how small should be kept on file. Any damage caused by others should be reported to the police, even if you think it’s unsubstantial.
- Repairs – Keep a record of all the services and repairs carried out on your RV or trailer. This will help with the resale.
- Upgrades – Any receipts or documents from upgrades that you do to the trailer should be kept. This will help for resale and it can come in handy if you need the warranty.
- Sales or loans against the trailer – Keep a record of the sale of the trailer. Also if you take out any finance or loans in relation to the trailer then the paperwork should be kept.
Do Homemade Trailers Have VIN Numbers?
If you have a homemade trailer then it won’t have a VIN number, but trailers over a certain weight are required to. If you want to buy or sell a homemade trailer then it must have a VIN number. You can get a VIN number from your local DMV office.
The process of getting a VIN number and the regulations can vary from state to state, but you will likely have to:
- Get in touch with your local DMV office – they will tell you what the process is for applying for a VIN number. Most states require homemade trailers over a certain weight to have a VIN number.
- Weigh your trailer – you will have to know the weight of your trailer for the application. You will need to find somewhere with Penske and CAT scales to weigh the trailer, they should provide you with a slip with the information onfor you to submit with your application.
- Trailer build – you will also be required to provide details of the materials used to build the trailer and the value of it.
- Inspection – you will have to have the trailer inspected by a garage or DMV inspector to certify that it is safe to tow on the road.
- Insurance – you will also need to get the trailer insured and provide this documentation.
- Application – fill out the application for and send all the documents to the DMV office, along with your proof of identity. There will also be a fee to pay
After following all these steps your VIN number should be processed and you will usually receive it in 2 to 4 weeks.
How Do I Know If My Trailer Is Stolen?
Before you purchase any vehicle or trailer, it’s important to do a VIN check. The VIN report will tell you the registered owner and if the trailer has been in an accident. If the seller can not give you the VIN then it’s a good indication that the trailer is stolen. Do not purchase any vehicle or trailer without getting the VIN.
If the deal seems too good to be true, then unfortunately it probably is.
When you have the VIN number, run a check online or through your local DMV office, this will tell you the full history of the trailer.
Can You Tell GVWR From VIN?
To get the GVWR from the VIN number, you will have to decode it first. If the VIN number shows the trim and style (positions 1-8,10, and 11) then you can determine the GVWR. you will also need to factor in any cargo and passengers to get the true gross vehicle weight rating.
Finding the VIN on a trailer or camper is often not as straightforward as it should be. Hopefully, with the help of this article, you now know where to look in order to find it.
Remember to never buy a vehicle or trailer without running a VIN check first, it can be hard to walk away from a good deal but you don’t want to buy something that is stolen or salvaged.
Also remember to keep accurate and up-to-date records of your camper or trailer, as this will help with the resale and help keep the value.