VIN Decoding

In 1954, automakers began using a vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle they produced. Between 1954 and 1981, there was no standard format and VINs varied considerably between manufacturers. Under standards set by the National Highway Traffic 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. The 17 digits in a car’s VIN reveal specific information, including the vehicle’s year, make, model, country of origin, assembly plant and more. The VIN also enables you to run a CARFAX Vehicle History Report on vehicles sold since the 1981 model year.

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 one from of a similar vehicle that is legally registered. Our VIN decoder chart will help you verify the car’s VIN, so you can make sure it matches up with what’s in the title documents and service records. You can also find VIN clone alerts in a CARFAX Report.

How to Decode a VIN

Example VIN: 1HGCM82633A004352

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

World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three digits of the VIN make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) number. However, if an automaker builds fewer than 500 vehicles per year, 9 will be the third digit and positions 12-14 (part of the production number) will make up the second part of the manufacturer’s WMI.


The first digit in the VIN indicates the vehicle’s country of origin, or final point of assembly. Usually this is the country where the car was made, but in some European countries, it may be the country where the manufacturer is headquartered. Here are some examples:

Value Country
1,4,5 United States
2 Canada
3 Mexico
J Japan
K Korea
V France, Spain
T Switzerland
W Germany
Y Sweden/Findland
Z Italy


The second digit in the VIN indicates the manufacturer and the region where the vehicle was produced.

Vehicle Type

The third digit indicates the vehicle type or manufacturing division.

Vehicle Descriptor Section

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

Digits 4 through 8 identify the vehicle 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.

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). The tenth digit indicates the year.

Year Year Year Year
1980 A 1995 S 2010 A 2025 S
1981 B 1996 T 2011 B 2026 T
1982 C 1997 V 2012 C 2027 V
1983 D 1998 W 2013 D 2028 W
1984 E 1999 X 2014 E 2029 X
1985 F 2000 Y 2015 F 2030 Y
1986 G 2001 1 2016 G 2031 1
1987 H 2002 2 2017 H 2032 2
1988 J 2003 3 2018 J 2033 3
1989 K 2004 4 2019 K 2034 4
1990 L 2005 5 2020 L 2035 5
1991 M 2006 6 2021 M 2036 6
1992 N 2007 7 2022 N 2037 7
1993 P 2008 8 2023 P 2038 8
1994 R 2009 9 2024 R 2039 9

Assembly Plant

The 11th 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.

By | 2019-01-03T16:27:26+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Inspecting a Vehicle|30 Comments


  1. Jodie Watson May 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply


    • Dave Driben June 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

      Your car dealership should give that to you. The month should be there on inside of door it uaually says month and year. Dealership will give you day.

    • Kerri August 29, 2017 at 11:48 am - Reply

      Hi Jodie, you can find the month of manufacture on the VIN tag. It may be in the driver side door jamb or on the outside lip of the driver door itself. For example, It will appear as ” 09/12″ or “12/16”

    • Bluetrax8201 June 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Month and year will be on the driver’s door sticker if it I’d still interact

  2. Ron Blackburn May 29, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Will the vin# indicate the wheelbase length and overall car length?

    • Kerri Smith August 29, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Hey Ron, depending on the manufacturer of the vehicle, the wheelbase specs are usually either on the VIN tag or on a seperate ID tag in the driver side door jamb. You may also find it on the driver door. Tags located in trunk/spare compartment or the glovebox are usually codes for things like paint and trim level. Hope this helps in the future!

  3. Barry Spinner June 7, 2017 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    No, but some of these VIN tools (not this one) will parse model spec onto the report.

  4. Ed A June 25, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    I want a car report on a 1978 Chevy Nova. I put the VIN number in here on CARFOX and it says I need a 17 digit VIN number but back in 1978 it was not 17 number/letters…. What to do and where can I get my report with my 1978 VIN number?

  5. Patty McCormick October 5, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

    I have 1973 VW Beetke that has a 12 digit vin number. How do I look it up as everything I have found requires a 17 digit vin. Thanks for your help.

  6. Tonya October 25, 2017 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    We recently bought a Honda Odyssey. The VIN indicated it was a Touring Elite, the trim we were wanting. The dealership advertised it as Touring Elite. Turns out, it was simply a Touring. The dealership said they only advertised it as the VIN indicated and they were not responsible for the ‘mix up’. As consumers, do we have any recourse to get the upgrades if the Touring Elite through Honda?

    • Greg K June 29, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      Look at the MSRP sticker (Monroney) – the dealer is required to leave it on the vehicle when they sell it to you, however many dealers will remove it for you and give it to you (you’ll need to sign a document if they do this). For Honda’s, look in the top left side of the sticker for the model number, which will be RL5H9HKXW for the Touring Elite. If it isn’t, then you don’t have a Touring Elite.

      What can you do if you were sold the wrong vehicle? If the dealer advertised it as a Touring Elite, then you have a valid lawsuit against them. You’ll need to bring a copy of the advertisement and make sure the VIN in the ad matches the VIN on the vehicle you bought. If it doesn’t, then you didn’t buy the car in the ad – called “bait and switch”.

      If everything matches (advertisement, VIN and your car’s VIN) except the car (Touring vs Touring Elite), then you should first contact the dealer. I’d write what’s called a “demand letter”, which tells them your specific demand. For instance, you can state that you demand a refund of $3,000 for their error. Or you can demand they take your car back at the price you paid and they replace it with a Touring Elite = no additional cost to you. Give them a reasonable time to respond – ten business days is good. If they don’t satisfy your demand, then you need to consider the cost and time of taking them to court vs letting it go. In many states, you can go to small claims court as long as the damages are less than the state’s limit.

      In the future, you may want to consider hiring a professional to help you with your purchase. Auto buying services or brokers are a good place to go for help, but make sure they are recommended by someone you know or by your credit union. They are professionals who do this for a living; yes, it’s sad that there is a need for a service like this – if dealers were honest, there wouldn’t be one. In a few states, the dealerships have a strong influence with state officials and brokers are banned, so you may not be able to find one. Dealers typically don’t like brokers, because they bring truth and fairness to a vehicle purchase. In your case, if the dealer did cheat you, a broker would’ve known this before you walked on the lot to look at the car and it could’ve saved you the time, frustration and money of falling for a dealer’s trick.

      I hope you did get the correct car, but based on what you’ve written, I have a bad feeling you were taken advantage of and you’re going to have a tough time getting your money back.

      In the future, try using an auto buying service for your entire purchase. I think you’ll find it a much better experience.

      Good luck.

    • Ken August 13, 2018 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      I’m unclear on why you bought a car you didn’t touch first..

  7. Michael Dressor March 12, 2018 at 2:11 am - Reply

    I have a 2017 C7 Corvette, I want to know how many were built with the color racing yellow. How do i find that out in the vin number?

  8. Jeff Thompson March 13, 2018 at 2:45 am - Reply

    I have a Chevy luv truck with a vehicle identification number. Trying to get a tag. Trying to get registered. It’s a 14 digit number. My local court house can not identify anything on this number. … Suggestions ?????

    • Gregg E January 5, 2019 at 12:19 am - Reply

      If it’s a pre-1981 there should be a service where someone (usually a police officer) inspects the vehicle to ensure the VIN tag is properly affixed to it and that it’s in roadworthy condition.

      Depending on the State and County, they may come to you or you may have to tow or trailer it to the inspection location. If the people at the local courthouse are too much of dimbulbs to know what information to look for or whom to ask, contact your State Department of Motor Vehicles and ask how they handle vintage vehicles made before 1981. Someone there should be able to provide some info you can take to your local courthouse.

      If they *still* refuse to do their jobs then call back to the State office and report them for incompetence.

  9. fernando March 29, 2018 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I am looking for a way to find out all the information on the vehicle built in México ,like the car fax here in the USA,
    that could provide year, make, model, transmission, cylinders, drive, fuel, abs, does any one can provide any information

  10. Larry Mangold June 23, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    But one thing u failed to mention is that the numbers in front 4 and 5 r not made in the continental united States. They are made in an area controlled by the united states. Namely west Indies.

    • Greg K June 29, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      Larry, I don’t know where you received this information, but it’s not correct. The majority of Toyota Camry’s are made in Kentucky and start with 4. Toyota Tundra’s start with 5, but are made in Texas. BMW X5’s and Z4’s are made in South Carolina, but start with a 4 or 5.

      Please do more fact finding, before posting incorrect information. Some people believe that it must be correct if it’s on the internet and you don’t want to mislead them.

  11. Marsha Griffith August 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I need to indicate a series # for my 2009 Tahoe LT flex fuel. I entered the Vin # and was given the choice of 2 series #s:

    TAHOE-LT-UTL 4X24D and

    TAHOE-LT-UTL 4X44D Does anyone know the difference between the 24 vs the 44

    • JAMES S August 8, 2018 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      4X24D IS A 4X2 (2 WHEEL DRIVE) 4D IS A 4 DOOR. 4X44D IS A 4X4 (4 WHEEL DRIVE) 4D IS A 4 DOOR.

    • JAMES S August 8, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply


  12. Rose August 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    My 11th is a letter how do I know what number that represents

    • Kathy F August 16, 2018 at 5:42 am - Reply

      Position 11 represents the assembly plant of the vehicle and can be a letter or a number. The manufacturer (FORD, CHEVY, NISSAN, etc) sets this and you would have to look it up by searching the internet for a VIN decoder(break down) for that specific manufacturer.

  13. Julie August 12, 2018 at 4:46 am - Reply

    I’ve always thought my Chevy Truck was a 1992, but my ViN has an M in the 10th place indicating it’s a 1991, how do I know for sure?

    • Gregg E January 5, 2019 at 12:25 am - Reply

      If the label on the door or door jamb is still intact, that will have the production date. I used to have a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer that was actually built in very late 1997, after Ford changed from the one year only 1997 Mountaineer to the restyled 1998+ version.

      In some cases manufacturers have claimed vehicles to be essentially from a year in the future, selling a model in the last 6 months of (just an example) 2012 as “2014” models.

      Used to be nobody started selling next year’s cars until sometime in November, and some States would title vehicles as the year they were sold, not the year the manufacturer claimed.

  14. Dave September 3, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    @ Julie . You definitely have a 1991 if the letter is a M in the tenth digit.

  15. Jan September 13, 2018 at 5:58 am - Reply

    I recently bought a 2005 Ford Explorer Xlt and a few days ago I went to get insurance on it and the VIN# doesn’t match up to the vehicle what does this mean and what can I do???? PLEASE HELP!!!!!

  16. Richard September 25, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Anyway to know how long and where new vehicles are stored before shipment to dealers? My 1 year old car has rust around back-up camera and what looks and smells like moldy cushions under the upholstery – wondering if there is a way to check VIN against areas of flooding. Also just had transmission replaced (under warranty) as well as several other small issues.

  17. Larry Mangold December 2, 2018 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Greg k. Thank you. But those r foreign made cars made in the USA.ive never seen an American car with anything but a number 1 that was made in America. I did vin’s for 15 years at Jeep.

  18. Gregg E January 5, 2019 at 12:13 am - Reply

    Unique? Not quite. I have a 1982 GMC one ton truck with a VIN that some online decoders claim is a 2012 Chevy truck or a Clarke trailer.

    Why? Because the letter for the year 1982 was re-used for 2012.

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