VIN etching

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VIN etching is a countermeasure to motor vehicle theft that involves etching a vehicle's VIN onto its windows to reduce the value of a stolen vehicle to thieves.


VIN etching uses a variety of methods, commonly a stencil and an acidic etching paste, to engrave a vehicle's vehicle identification number (VIN) onto the windshield and windows. Most parts on a vehicle already have at least a partial VIN stamped onto them, and many auto parts buyers will not purchase parts that carry identification numbers. Should a thief try to sell the parts from a vehicle for profit, those marked parts carry a higher risk for both the thief and the auto parts seller. Since automotive glass generally have no identification numbers, and are often interchangeable between many different years and models of vehicle, there is usually a much greater profit for the thief compared to other components on the vehicle. If a car's windows are stamped with the VIN, thieves would need to discard the glass before parting out the stolen vehicle, thus reducing or eliminating their profit.[1] VIN etching can also increase the odds of recovery of a stolen car by police.[2]

VIN etching is recommended by police and insurance agencies, and is sometimes offered free of charge at sponsored events.[3][4][5][6][7]

Vehicles with VIN-etched windows may be eligible for insurance rate reductions of as much as 15% in some US states.[7][8][9][10]

Some automobile dealers try to include VIN etching as an extra service to boost their profit margin when selling a car;[11][12] they may even pre-print a charge for VIN etching on the bill of sale, as if to suggest that VIN etching is mandatory rather than an optional, add-on service.[11][13][14] Inflated dealership fees of $200 or $300 for VIN etching are not unheard of.[11][12] However, consumer advocates note that while some states do require that dealers offer VIN etching, no states require that consumers purchase it from the dealer.[15]

Consumers who want to have the VIN etched on their car windows but are unable to find a free etching service in their area can often save hundreds of dollars over the dealership fee by using a do-it-yourself VIN etching kit purchased from an internet retailer, or a local auto parts dealer, for as little as $20–25.[11][13]


  1. ^ Culpeper County Sheriff's Office VIN Etching
  2. ^ Lehigh University Police Department VIN Etching Program, retrieved May 4, 2010
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ NBC San Diego - VIN Etching Can Deter Thieves
  5. ^ "New York City Police Department - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Smith, Dylan. "Police: Free VIN etching can deter thieves". Tucson Sentinel. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Governor's Auto Theft Strike Force". Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  8. ^ The Impact of Auto Theft Trends on Auto Insurance Rates (PDF). Michigan's Automobile Theft Prevention Authority. July 2011. p. 13. 
  9. ^ New York State Insurance Department 2010 Consumer Guide to Automobile Insurance (PDF). New York State Insurance Department. 2010. pp. II–1. 
  10. ^ "Motor Vehicle Crime Prevention Recommendations". City of New Orleans. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d "10 Common Car-Buying Mistakes". Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Edgerton, Jerry. "Auto Finance: Watch Out for These Dealer Scams". CBS Money Watch. CBS News. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Elliott, Hannah. "Car Dealer Scams To Avoid". Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  14. ^ "L.I. Auto Dealerships Cited for Tricking Consumers into Paying for Unwanted "Extras"". NY State Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  15. ^ "/ Ways Dealers Make You Pay Extra". Retrieved 9 January 2012.