Quick Tip: How to find out if your vehicle has US car specifications

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If you are buying a new or used car and would like to know if it is an import with US car specifications, following this CARFAX Europe Quick Tip will help you find out how.

Every new vehicle sold in the United States has to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). These standards for US car specifications are in place to dictate many things, including what safety equipment is necessary for crash avoidance and protection, as well as other materials designed to protect the vehicle’s occupants.

There are three easy ways to find out whether or not the vehicle you would like to buy has US car specifications:

Open the door on the driver's side of the vehicle. Inside of the doorjamb, you will find the FMVSS sticker or placard. This will display several pieces of information, such as the manufacturing date, as well as a legend affirming that the vehicle complies with all applicable standards, which were in force on the date the vehicle was manufactured. Only vehicles with US car specifications will have this sticker.

Another way to find out if a vehicle has US car specifications is to inspect the vehicle’s headlights and taillights. If the vehicle hasn’t already undergone any headlight modifications (which are required in many European countries before vehicle registration can take place), you will find the three letters: “DOT,” as well as an identification number, stamped on the surface of the lighting enclosure.

Finally, you may also use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is normally located on the bottom corner of the windshield on the driver’s side, to identify if the vehicle has US car specifications. All vehicles manufactured after 1981 will have this 17-digit VIN. Getting a CARFAX Vehicle History Report will provide you with all the relevant information about the vehicle, as well as whether or not it has any potentially negative history (e.g. flood damage, an odometer rollback, or salvage title).

For more information on what a Vehicle Identification Number is and how it works, check out CARFAX’s article on your car’s unique identity.