What is a VIN Number?
Even though the N represents the word number, a lot of people still refer to it as the VIN Number. VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number.
Every vehicle since 1981 (except some imports) have VIN Numbers. Each one consists of a code of 17 digits. This code of digits is completely unique to each an every vehicle on the planet (unless there are aliens somewhere with vehicles, I’m not sure about them). This number is used by dealers, insurance companies, parts suppliers, authorities, and potential buyers. This will bring up the information needed to identify the vehicle. It is usually used as the base information to evaluate a car or truck too. CARFAX and Autocheck will also have information related to the VIN number of each vehicle, such as accident reports.
Find your vehicle VIN
The easiest place to find your vehicles VIN number is on the dash, behind the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side. You will have to be on the outside of the vehicle to read it. There will also be a sticker on the side of the driver’s door, or on the inside of the driver’s side pillar or bulkhead.
What do the digits mean and how to decode the VIN?
Digits 1 through 3 combined are called the WMI, (World Manufacturer Identifier).
The first digit of the VIN number is the country of origin or final processing plant. For example, numbers, 1, 4 and 5 represent the U.S. 2 is Canada and the number 3 is Mexico. The Society of Automotive Engineers are the ones who assign WMI’s to countries and manufacturers. Next is the digit that represents the manufacturer, for example, ‘G’ is for General Motors, ‘C’ can be Chrysler and ‘B’ for BMW.
The third digit combined with the first two may identify the type of vehicle, such as whether it is a truck, SUV or car. For example, a Chevrolet truck VIN would start as ‘1GC’. 1 for the US as the country of origin, G for General Motors and C for Truck.
4th through 8th digits represent the vehicle descriptor section.
This is information such as model type, restraint types, body type, engine, and transmission.
What is the 9th ‘check digit’?
The 9th digit is called a check digit in a VIN. It is a code number/letter the manufacturer generates to verify the authenticity of the VIN.
Digits 10 through 17 are described as the Vehicle Identifier Section
The 10th digit is the model year. This table below is a good quick guide to years. So if the 10th digit is a ‘D’ this means the vehicle is a 2013 model.
The 11th digit is the manufacturer’s plant code.
Vehicle manufacturers all have their own unique codes for which plant the vehicle was manufactured at.
12th through 17th digits are the sequence of numbers the vehicle gets as it rolls through the production line.
These numbers are usually sequential. For example, the very first of that vehicle might end in 000001.
Letters not used.
The letters I, O and Q are not used.
Can you now decode a VIN number, find out anything interesting? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. A car geek, photographer, big game chaser and bagpipe player, powered by coffee. Send your questions to: