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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.

Country

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
S UK
V France, Spain
T Switzerland
W Germany
Y Sweden/Findland
Z Italy

Manufacturer

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.

7 thoughts on “VIN Decoding”

  1. CAN I GET THE EXACT PRODUCTION DATE OF A CAR FROM THE VIN# ( THE MONTH IT WAS MADE ) … NOT JUST THE YEAR ??

    1. 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.

    2. 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”

    1. 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!
      Cheers!

  2. 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?

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