What Is VIN Etching and Is it the Scam of the Decade?

Buying a new car can come with a lot of worry and skepticism, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking at when the salesperson goes over the pricing with you. Aside from the typical taxes and fees, you could be charged for accessories, like running boards, or even extra services, like VIN etching. But what is VIN etching and is it just a scam?

What is VIN etching?

Simply put, VIN etching is when the dealer inscribes the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) onto all of the windows and windshield of the car. It’s a relatively easy process that’s meant to deter any would-be thieves. A car’s VIN is unique to that specific car and the series of alphanumeric can be found on various panels on the car, including the doors, engine bay, and trunk.

The thought process behind VIN etching the car’s windows is that if a thief steals your car and tries to resell it, then they would have to get the windows and windshield replaced first. Since car thieves usually scratch out the VIN stickers and engravings on the car before selling it or stripping it, they would have to replace the windows, which would be too expensive or time-consuming for them.

Replacing the windows would negate the profit that they would get from selling the car or various parts, according to Used Cars.

A window that has been VIN etched
A window that has been VIN etched | WSET.com

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How much does VIN etching cost?

Dealerships usually have their own pricing when it comes to the parts and labor for window etching. However, according to AARP, some dealers charge around $400 for the service. What’s even worse is that they usually perform the service on every car on the lot, which means that you’ll have it added to the total price when you buy a car.

It’s unfair, but it’s a way for dealers to make an extra profit without having to do much work. How much do they profit? Considering you can get a similar VIN etching kit on Amazon for $19.99, we’re sure you can do the math.

A VIN etching kit that you can buy on Amazon.com
A VIN etching kit that you can buy on Amazon.com | Amazon

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Why do dealers do VIN etching on their cars?

Aside from turning a huge profit, dealers VIN etch their cars in order to provide an extra layer of security for them. Most of the time, the dealer will even tell you that the VIN etching is warrantied and that if your car ends up getting stolen, then the company will cover your deductible. However, a story from AARP shows that it’s not always the case.

Also, many dealers will tell you that the VIN etching can provide you with an additional discount on your car insurance policy. However, the only auto insurance provider that we could find that would give a discount is Allstate.

What should you do if the car that you want has VIN etching done?

If you find a car on a dealership lot that has its windows and windshield VIN etched, then you can always ask the salesperson to have the charge removed from the bill. If they won’t remove the charge for it, then we suggest taking your business elsewhere.

You shouldn’t have to pay for something that you don’t want and if the dealer won’t budge, then you shouldn’t have to either. While VIN etching is technically not a scam, as it does provide some security, it’s not as effective as something like a GPS tracking device, for example.