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VIN Decoder Information

Vehicle identification numbers (VINs) were first used by auto manufacturers in 1954. Between 1954 and 1981, there was no standard format and VINs varied considerably between manufacturers. Under standards set by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), every car and light truck model year 1981 or later has a unique 17-digit VIN in a fixed format.

Why was this standardization necessary? It was done to ensure that no car was ever mistaken for another. Digits in a car VIN tell specific information, including the vehicle's year, make, model, country of origin, assembly plant, and more. The VIN also enables you to run the CARFAX Vehicle History Report.

The information that can be found from a VIN decode is very important to check before buying a used car. Thieves will often replace the VIN of a stolen car with the VIN of a similar vehicle that is legally registered. Make sure that you use our VIN decoder chart below to verify the car VIN information matches up with what's in the title documents and service records. You can also find VIN clone alerts in a CARFAX Vehicle History Report.

VIN Decoder Chart

Example VIN:1HGCM82633A004352

  World Manufacturer Identifier Vehicle Descriptor Section Vehicle Identifier Section
Type of information provided Country Manufacturer Type Details Check digit Year Assembly plant Production number
VIN digits 1 2 3 4-8 9 10 11 12-17
Values from example VIN
1 H G CM826 3 3 A 004352

Note: The letters I, O and Q never appear in a VIN.

World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three digits make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)

Value Country
1, 4 or 5 United States
2 Canada
3 Mexico
J Japan
K Korea
S England
W Germany
Y Sweden/Finland

The first digit in the VIN indicates the vehicle's country of origin, or final point of assembly. Here are some examples:

Value Manufacturer
A Audi, Jaguar, or Mitsubishi
B BMW or Dodge
C Chrysler
D Mercedes-Benz
F Ford or Subaru
G General Motors, Pontiac or Saturn
H Honda or Acura
J Jeep
N Nissan
R Audi
T Toyota or Lexus
V Volkswagen (VW) or Volvo
1 Chevrolet
4 Buick
6 Cadillac

The second digit in the VIN indicates the manufacturer. Some manufacturers are listed below:

Vehicle Type
The third digit indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division.

Vehicle Descriptor Section

Digits 4 through 9 make up the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS).

Vehicle Details:  Model, Body Style,
Digits 4 through 8 identify the vehicle's model, body style, engine type, transmission, and more.  Service shops commonly use this information to identify systems installed by the manufacturer so that they can properly service a car. 

Check Digit
The ninth digit, or check digit, is used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation. 

Vehicle Identifier Section

Digits 10 through 17 make up the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS).

Value Year
W 1998
X 1999
Y 2000
1 2001
2 2002
3 2003
4 2004
5 2005
6 2006
7 2007
8 2008
9 2009
A 2010

Vehicle Year
The tenth digit identifies the vehicle's model year. The year may be indicated by either a letter or number. Here are some examples:

Assembly Plant
The eleventh digit identifies the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled.  Each manufacturer has its own set of plant codes.

Production Number
Digits 12 through 17 indicate the production or serial number.  This number could indicate the sequence in which a vehicle came off the assembly line.  Since there is no fixed standard for this number, each manufacturer may use this number differently. 

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