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What a VIN Can Tell You

VIN number of the car

The first Vehicle Identification Numbers was used in 1954. However, it was not until 1980 that VINs were standardized by the ISO. Before standardization, each auto manufacturer used different VIN formats, which varied in the number of characters and values of these characters. As a result, two different vehicles could have the same numbers. Today, VINs are regulated by the NHTSA. Below is the basic information which a VIN can tell you about your vehicle.

Vehicle’s Country of Origin

The 1st character of the VIN is used for the identification of the country where your vehicle was assembled. The country may be represented either by a digit or letter. For example, “J” means Japan, and “2” means Canada. For European vehicles, the first character sometimes identifies the country where the headquarters of the vehicle’s manufacturer is located.

Vehicle’s Manufacturer

The 2nd character of the VIN will tell you who has built your vehicle. Each auto manufacturer is assigned a specific letter of the digit. Even if the vehicle was built by one company, but marketed by another, the 2nd character of the VIN will identify the company that built this vehicle.

Vehicle’s Brand or Division

Most car manufacturers have several divisions and brands. Your vehicle’s division is identified by the 3rd letter of the VIN.

Vehicle’s Description: Body Style, Platform, Engine, Weight, etc.

Characters 4th to 8th provide information about equipment and other features of your vehicle, such as the engine, horsepower, transmission, body style, and platform. Knowing this information will help you reveal if the vehicle’s equipment has been changed after it went to market.

The Year of the Model

To learn the vehicle’s model year, check the 10th character of the VIN. Remember that the model year may not coincide with the year of production, as many manufacturers start making models a year before they enter the market.

Vehicle’s Assembly Plant

The 11th character tells on which assembly plant the vehicle was built. Each manufacturer assigns different digits and letters to its plant. For that reason, its value varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Serial Number of the Vehicle

Characters 12th to 17th make up a production number of your vehicle. It is used for the identification of your particular car.


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