Do Side-by-Sides Have VIN Numbers?

Depending upon what year the side-by-side was made, and if it is in voluntary accordance with the SAE Production Identification Number System (PIN), then your side-by-side should have a VIN number located on the vehicle.

When you buy a vehicle it is nice to know the details about it if it has been in an accident, if the vehicle was potentially stolen, and what kind of repairs/modifications has been done to it?

In order to know this type of information cars, trucks, and other “on-road” vehicles have a VIN number stamped on them that mechanics, dealerships, salvage yards, and other business will write on their invoice or report so that the work done will be on the history of the vehicle.

These numbers are standard things for on-road vehicles, but they can be a bit tricky when it comes to off-road vehicles. There are different rules, and even numbering processes that go into off-road vehicles.

So how can you track your side-by-side and be sure its been taken care of? That is what we are going to cover in this article. We will look at what a VIN number is if side-by-sided even have them, and if they do not, then what they have in their place.

What is a VIN Number?

If you have ever bought a car then you are probably familiar with getting a title signed over to you so that you can have a certificate of clear ownership of the car and its details, a key part of that title, is the VIN number of the car.

In 1981 global auto manufacturers began to utilize a complex numbering system to uniquely describe a vehicle and its specific purpose. The VIN number is a series of 17 digits that holds coded information such as manufacturer, year of production, place of production, and other characteristics of a vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA for short is tasked with regulating the information that the VIN numbers on cars in the US, have.

The NHTSA only has jurisdiction over cars that are driven on the road though so it does not cover anything that is driven off-road such as side-by-sides, all-terrain vehicles, or dirt bikes.

Since those types of vehicles are not under NHSTA jurisdiction they have not always been required to have VIN numbers, in fact, they still are not required to do so.

Since side-by-sides and other off-road vehicles have gained popularity with the US and throughout the world, many manufacturers have put various identification numbers, quite similar to VIN numbers, on their vehicles in order to keep track of production numbers and so forth.

In 2003 the NHTSA made a strict clarification of their standard and jurisdiction discouraging any off-road vehicle to be assigned a VIN number and by 2005 new VIN numbers for off-road vehicles would no longer be issued.

This is an issue for many different manufacturers, because how then are they supposed to identify their vehicles? Additionally, if a person would want to make their side-by-side or off-road vehicle “street legal” then they would need a VIN number to do so in accordance with NHSTA standards.

Not only that but in order to sell internationally manufacturers need to be compliant with ISO standards and have a 17 digit identification number printed on their vehicles.

There was a solution to this problem though and that came through the Society of Automotive Engineers International known as SAE international. SAE international was actually contracted by NHSTA in order to fix this problem as well as integrate WMI (world manufacturer identifier) codes into one system.

SAE international did just that. They were able to come in and create a standard that was compatible with the ISO VIN standard for off-road vehicles as well as integrate the older WMIs.

They did this through creating a 17-digit Product Identification Number (PIN) system, that is a PIN, not VIN. This SAE PIN system is unique to off-road vehicles and is controlled by SAE and is voluntary for manufacturers to participate in.

Is A PIN Different From a VIN?

I get it, everything above seems kind of confusing and jumbled together. Well, that is what happens with you have a national identification system clash with an international system filled with international manufacturers.

Everyone has different standards, jurisdictions, and systems and when you need to make it so that the system is compliant with all the other systems that are selling overseas and trying to keeping track of products it all can get a little hairy.

No need to worry too much about all of the technicalities, acronyms, and administrations though. The long and short of it is this. There was a problem with identifying off-road vehicles nationally for the United States.

Now, thankfully, SAE international has made a system that is compatible with the U.S. national standard put by the NHSTA, and international standards and systems that manufacturers can choose to participate in.

So what then is the real difference between a VIN number and a PIN number? The answer is…almost nothing. Most manufacturers were using their own 17-digit codes or VINs, it is just that the NHSTA did not recognize international VINs of off-road vehicles.

The PIN system that SAE uses provides manufacturers of off-road vehicles a standardized system for the assignment of a 17-digit PIN.

Under that system, the SAE will assign the World Manufacturers Code, which is typically the first three numbers of the international manufacturer’s code, to their (SAE) PIN.

So along with assigning the designated portion of the PIN, SAE will offer a database product containing decoding information for this new PIN system similar to the VIN system currently in place.

It is hard to tell just how many companies have actually bought into the SAE international system, because like I said before, it is voluntary. I would assume that many “big name” manufacturers have bought in though.

SAE’s PIN system was made to be compliant with the 17-digit VIN system. It fulfills the requirement for the ISO VIN standard used internationally and is in agreement with the NHSTAs stance on assigning VINs.

So whether or not your side-by-side has a VIN number or a PIN number it should be able to be decoded just like a VIN is.

There are also many different manufacturers like Polaris that have their own VIN search system. So if a manufacturer is not in the SAE international system, they can have their own system to identify their products and vehicles.

Where is My VIN/PIN Located?

Locating your VIN number or your PIN number on your side-by-side can be different for each side-by-side. Manufacturers tend to have one or two designated spots that they put their VIN/PIN numbers on.

You can look up online, through different forums and such, where people have located their VIN/PIN numbers on that specific model. Typically though you can find your VIN/PIN number either under the hood of the side-by-side or on the lower frame rail behind the left or right rear tire.

Sometimes the VIN/PIN number can be stamped elsewhere like on the dash of the side-by-side as it is on some cars, but since every side-by-side is different and come with different attachments, under the hood, or on the lower frame rail behind one of the rear tires is going to be your best bet.

Before you ever purchase a side-by-side be sure to do your due diligence in researching that specific model so that you can know where the VIN/PIN number is.

That way when you go to look at the model you can see if the manufacturer has their own VIN search system or if it is through SAE international you can search the number through their system and get the side-by-sides information.

If you are buying your side-by-side from a dealership then they will usually already have this kind of information on hand and will be able to give you all of the information of the side-by-side and its history right away so that you are not left with any questions or concerns about the vehicle.

If it is a private sale from someone then find the VIN/PIN and search it just to be sure, you never want to buy something if it has a bad history or is stolen.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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