How Do I Decode a VIN Number

How do I decode a VIN number and what does a VIN mean? If you have the same questions, this article is for you. We discover what a VIN implies digit by digit. We also tell you where to find this number and what you should do if your VIN is less than the intended length.

Read in this article:

  • What is a VIN

  • How to Find Vehicle Identification Number

  • How Do I Decode a VIN Number

  • What if the VIN is less than 17 Digits

  • Conclusion

What is a VIN

VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is an unprecedented number made up of 17 characters to describe a car. To find out more information about your car or truck, you can decode the VIN of your vehicle.

Many people refer to it as the VIN Number, even though the N in this acronym represents the word number. How do I decode a VIN number for myself? Let's read some details first.

Since 1981, every vehicle except some particular imported cars has VIN Number. Each number consists of a code of 17 digits. This code of digits is different for every car on the planet.

Authorities, insurance companies, parts suppliers, dealerships, and potential buyers all use a VIN, which brings up the information needed to recognize the vehicle. We usually use it as the base information to assess a car.

Online services like CARFAX and Autocheck also have information related to the VIN of each vehicle, such as accident reports. So if you have a VIN, you can look for lots of information regarding the intended car or truck.

How to Find Vehicle Identification Number

The VIN sticker is usually on the outside bottom of the windshield on the driver's side. It's the most comfortable place to find a vehicle identification number. Look to the very base of the windscreen to read it. There is also a sticker on the driver's door or inside the driver's side pillar or bulkhead.

In new cars and trucks, VIN is stored within electronic devices, too, for security purposes. So if you have an old model, it's a sticker on the windshield, and if you own a new brand car, you can find the VIN within electronics.

How Do I Decode a VIN Number

How Do I Decode a VIN Number

As we said, every VIN is a unique number consisting of 17 digits, every several of them have a specific meaning. So how do I decode a VIN number and what does it mean? Let's get to them one by one:

How Do I Decode a VIN Number

Digits 1 to 3 of the VIN

Digits 1 to 3 in a VIN are called the WMI or World Manufacturer Identifier.

The first digit is the country of origin or final processing plant. For example, vehicles made in the United States start with 1, 4, or 5. Canada is 2, and Mexico is 3, England is S, Germany is W, Sweden or Finland is Y, Japan is J, and South Korea is K.

The second digit represents the manufacturer. The Society of Automotive Engineers assigns WMI's to manufacturers and countries. For instance, A is for Audi, B is for BMW, G is for General Motors, and N is for Nissan. But A can also stand for Jaguar or Mitsubishi, and R can also mean Audi. It may not sound obvious, but the next digit ties it all together.

The third digit, linked with the first two, identifies the vehicle type, such as a sedan, truck, or SUV. For example, a Chevrolet truck VIN starts as 1GC. In this given VIN, number 1 is for the U.S. as the country of origin, G is for General Motors, and C for Truck.

Digits 4 to 8 of the VIN

Digits 4 to 8 in a VIN represent the vehicle descriptor section.

It shows the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code.

Digit 9 of the VIN

Digit 9 in a VIN is a check digit, which is a security code. It's a code consisting of numbers or letters. The manufacturer generates it to verify the authenticity of the whole number.

They use it to detect invalid VINs. The number varies and is based on a mathematical formula that the U.S. Department of Transportation developed.

Digits 10 to 17 of the VIN

Digits 9 to 11 is the Vehicle Identifier Section or VIS. The digit 10 is the model year. For instance, D as the 10th digit means the vehicle is a 2013 model.

The letters from B to Y compare to the car model years 1981 to 2000. The VIN number does not include I, O, Q, U, or Z characters. From 2001 to 2009, they used the numbers 1 to 9 in place of letters. The alphabet characters started from A in 2010 and will go on until 2030.

Here are the model years since 2000:

  • Y: 2000,

  • 1: 2001,

  • 2: 2002,

  • 3: 2003,

  • 4: 2004,

  • 5: 2005,

  • 6: 2006,

  • 7: 2007,

  • 8: 2008,

  • 9: 2009,

  • A: 2010,

  • B: 2011,

  • C: 2012,

  • D: 2013,

  • E: 2014,

  • F: 2015,

  • G: 2016,

  • H: 2017,

  • J: 2018,

  • K: 2019,

  • L: 2020,

  • M: 2021.

The 11th digit is the automotive manufacture's code. Vehicle manufacturers all have unique codes for which plant built the intended car, truck, or SUV.

Digits 12 to 17 of the VIN

Digits 12 to 17 digits are the serial number of the car. The car gets this number as it rolls through the production line. These numbers are usually sequential. For example, the first of that vehicle might end in 000001.

What if the VIN is less than 17 Digits

The VIN decode will help you learn an automotive lineage and some essential blueprints. Those digits are also helpful for less entertaining but more essential reasons involving its title, registration, and insurance.

The vehicle identification number is generally stamped into a plate mounted on the dashboard near the windshield or the driver-side doorjamb. The vehicle identification number is also stamped on the engine's firewall.

If your VIN is less than 17 digits, first double-check to make sure you have the right VIN, and you read it carefully. Once you have verified that the vehicle identification number is less than 17 characters, it is most likely from a pre-1981 vehicle.

Before the year 1981, VINs varied in length from 11 to 17 characters. But AutoCheck can only report on vehicles that use a 17 character VIN. Therefore, unfortunately, information on vehicles manufactured before 1981 is limited.

Make sure to check the vehicle identification number when purchasing replacement parts for your vehicle. Car spare parts are often specific to certain VINs and may not fit your car if you only go by make, model, and year.


A vehicle identification number is a 17-digit code made up of numbers and characters, which an automobile manufacturer assigns to every individual vehicle. Keep in mind that they don't use the letters I, O, Q, U, or Z in a VIN.

VINs can reveal lots of information about automobiles, including their country of origin, engine size, model year, vehicle type, trim level, plant name, and even airbag type. The VIN is the key to safety. Make sure before buying a used car to check out its VIN. This article discusses how do I decode a VIN number and read it.

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