A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2021

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Car theft is a leading cause in raising auto insurance premiums. Oftentimes, vehicles are stolen for parts or for the thieves to turn a huge profit, and are then never recovered. VIN etching is one process that can be used to deter auto theft and make your car insurance rates more affordable.

But first, find the lowest priced car insurance policies now by entering your ZIP code into the FREE tool! These online tools can help you find an insurance company if you’re in the market for a new one, or just looking for a new price.

VIN etching is offered by many auto dealers for a fee, or you can purchase an inexpensive do-it-yourself etching kit. Many cities and universities also offer free or low cost VIN etching to help crack down on car thefts.

What exactly is VIN etching?

VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number, and each car has its own unique VIN that identifies the car. This number is needed to sell a car, title or register a vehicle and get auto insurance coverage. It doesn’t matter who is selling the car, an individual or a dealership, they must supply you with the VIN. Many of the parts of a car, such as the dashboard and the doorposts near the door latches, carry the vehicle’s VIN to help in identifying the vehicle. With VIN etching, the vehicle’s VIN is engraved into all of the glass surfaces of the vehicle using an acid and a stencil.

Generally, a vehicle’s VIN is etched on the windshield, rear window, and all side windows.

When a car thief steals a car, more often than not, that vehicle is headed for a chop shop that pulls the vehicle apart and sells the parts to a car parts dealer for an agreed-upon price. The car parts dealer then resells the stolen parts to an unknowing public. Obviously, this is illegal for both the chop shop and the parts dealer.

It goes without saying that neither of the criminal parties involved wants to be caught and convicted, so they steer clear of car parts with identifiers such as VINs that might lead back to their illegal operations. As windshields and other auto glass are interchangeable between many vehicles, they are valuable on the black market. An etched VIN on a windshield makes the glass useless to thieves and black market dealers, since they would have a tough time removing the etching from the glass.

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Are there advantages to VIN etching?

VIN etching is an easy, one-time procedure that can significantly reduce the chances of your vehicle getting stolen. Even if you have the best auto insurance in the world, the stress and hassle of having a vehicle stolen should be avoided at all costs. Paying deductibles, filling out police reports and replacing lost personal effects all add up to a big headache and an even bigger invoice.

VIN etching makes your vehicle less valuable on the black market and a riskier theft for car thieves, so they are more likely to leave your vehicle alone and move on to another car altogether. Also, if your vehicle is stolen, those etched windows make it more likely that your car will be identified and returned to you. It also makes it easier to trace stolen vehicles back to the perpetrators and their partners.

Furthermore, another benefit of VIN etching is that many insurance companies will give a discount off comprehensive coverage once the procedure is complete. The Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority cited discounts of 5% to 10% off insurance premiums in a 2011 report. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security cites discounts as high as 15% off car insurance rates for VIN etching.

What are the options for getting VIN etching done?

Due to its popularity in lowering car theft rates, many dealers offer VIN etching before you even drive your new vehicle off the lot. However, it is not necessary to have it done by the dealer, who might charge hundreds of dollars for the simple procedure, according to a report in Forbes.com. So if you want to avoid additional dealer fees, you may want to do it yourself.

Inexpensive etching kits can be found online for as cheap as $17, which is significantly less expensive than a dealership fee for etching. However, glass etching does include the use of acids that can cause damage to your car’s paint or finish if used incorrectly. It is also a serious skin and eye irritant, but the process really just requires attention to detail, patience and a good pair of rubber gloves. They also come with plenty of instruction, so that you don’t end up with a pile of broken glass. You can also look online for common mistakes to avoid when you’re doing an etch at home.

If working with acids and the like are not to your taste, many police departments, city governments, universities, and insurance companies sponsor free or low cost VIN etching. Such procedures are commonly part of a larger community event or available by appointment.

Checking police department websites, city government websites or inquiring with your auto insurance provider will generally get you information about free or low cost VIN etching.

Lowering auto theft rates is a win-win for everyone in real life instances such as these. The police can give more attention to other crime issues, companies have fewer comprehensive insurance claims for auto theft, and car owners can rest easier knowing that they are less likely to have to their vehicle and belongings stolen.

It leaves little to ponder that this is a dealership service that’s offered, if it helps cut down the work of car thieves. Of course, it’s not a win for the car thieves, but we’re not counting them, are we? After all, if they’ve taken a vehicle, chances are it’s not just an honest mistake.

If you’re looking for further advice, insert your ZIP code into the box of the FREE tool to locate car insurance rates with discounts for having VIN etchings now!