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Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

What is a VIN Number?

Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their vehicle’s VIN until they need it. Some don’t even know what a VIN is. So, without further ado, let’s explore what a VIN is and why it is important.

What is a VIN?

What is a VIN?

Automobile manufacturers assign a unique vehicle identification number (VIN) to every car and truck that comes off their assembly line. It is basically the vehicle’s serial number, and because it is distinctly unique, it becomes the fingerprint of the car or truck. A VIN is made up of 17 characters (some capital letters and some numbers). Each digit or combination of digits in the VIN is a code. The code provides information about the vehicle, the manufacturer, the year, the country, make and model, and where it originated. When you decode a VIN number, you can find out a lot about your specific car or truck.

VIN’s do not use the letters Q (q), I(i), and O(o), so they are not confused with numbers.

Where to Find a VIN Number

Where to Find a VIN Number

Before you can decode a VIN number meaning, you must find the VIN. There are a few locations on most cars where the VIN is printed. It is usually printed in a single line. The four most common locations where the VIN would be located are:

  • On the driver’s side dash up close to the windshield.
  • Under the hood near the engine block.
  • Inside the driver’s side door. There is usually a sticker with recommended tire pressure and the VIN on it.
  • On older cars you might also find it on the front end of the frame.

Larger or unusual vehicles like campers and motorcycles may have them in other places.

How to Read a VIN Number

It’s interesting to find out a VIN number meaning because each section provides you with information. For example, if you are wondering, “what does the 8th digit of a VIN mean”, you can find out by decoding the VIN. Here is the VIN number breakdown:

The First Three Digits of a VIN - World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three digits of a VIN identify a few pieces of information. The first digit represents the manufacturer’s country, the second digit is a code for the vehicle manufacturer, and the third designates the manufacturer division where the vehicle originated.

Code:Year:Code:Year:Code:Year:Code:Year:
A1980L1990Y2000A2010
B1981M199112001B2011
C1982N199222002C2012
D1983P199332003D2013
E1984R199442004E2014
F1985S199552005F2015
G1986T199662006G2016
H1987V199772007H2017
J1988W199882008J2018
K1989X199992009K2019

Digits 4,5, 6, 7, 8, & 9

The 4th through the 9th digit represents the Vehicle Description Section (VDS). Specifically, digits four through 8 provide the details about the vehicle model, body type, transmission, engine type, and restraint system. The ninth digit is a security code called a “check digit”. The U.S. Department of Transportation created a mathematical formula to generate this digit randomly, and it is used to protect against fraudulent VINs.

Digits 10-17

AVIN’s 10th through 17th digits indicate the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The 10th digit applies to the year the car was manufactured. However, it only goes back to 1981 as VINs were not standardized until then. The eleventh digit identifies the actual plant where your vehicle was manufactured.

WMI:Region:Notes:
A-HAfricaAA-AH = South Africa
J-RAsia>J = Japan
KL-KR = South Korea
L = China
MA-ME = India
MF-MK = Indonesia
ML-MR = Thailand
MS = Myanmar
PA-PE = Philippines
PL-PR = Malaysia
RF-RG = Taiwan
S-ZEuropeSA-SM = United Kingdom
SN-ST, W = Germany
SU-SZ = Poland
TA-TH = Switzerland
TJ-TP = Czech Republic
TR-TV = Hungary
TW = Portugal
VA-VE = Austria
VF-VR = France
VS-VW = Spain
VX-V2 = Yugoslavia
XL-XM = The Netherlands
XS-XW = USSR
X3-X0 = Russia
YA-YE = Belgium
YF-YK = Finland
YS-YW = Sweden
ZA-ZR = Italy
1-5North America1, 4, 5 = United States
2 = Canada
3 = Mexico
6-7Oceania6A-6W = Australia
7A-7E = New Zealand
8-0South America8A-8E = Argentina
8F-8J = Chile
8X-82 = Venezuela
9A-9E, 93-99 = Brazil
9F-9J = Colombia

This is handy if the automobile has a defect or other issue, and the NHTSA can identify other vehicles made at the same time. Digits 12-17 are the serial number/unique identifier that each manufacturer assigns at the time of creation.

VINS with Less Than 17 Digits

If you own a vehicle older than 1981, you may have a VIN with fewer than 18 digits. In this case, you may have to decode the VIN yourself or get help from the vehicle manufacturer.

Decode a VIN Online and Perform a Vehicle History Check

Decode a VIN Online and Perform a Vehicle History Check

You can use a few different websites and third-party tools to enter your VIN and automatically decode them. You will see all the information pulled from the digits in one, nice, easy report. In some cases, you can do this for free, and in other cases, you may have to pay a small fee. A full VIN report is handy to verify that the automobile you own is actually what comes up and is linked to your VIN.

Why Do You Need to Know Your VIN?

When you purchase a new car, your insurance company will need the VIN to set up your insurance policy and set pricing. If you are interested in buying a used car, you can use the VIN to look into it and find out if it has been in any accidents or has any open recalls. You can also see previous owners and if the car has suffered any flood or fire damage. Police also use VINS to identify stolen vehicles.

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