How to Read and Decode VIN of a Vehicle

Every vehicle has their own identification number, which is called VIN, usually visible at the right bottom corner of windshield, and sometimes can also be located at the door panel, under the hood or on the frame. All vehicle history can be tracked by its VIN, and you can obtain a report of its records at CarFax or CarProof. It’s used when registering a car, insuring a car, recorded in accidents, and sometimes for finding parts for the vehicle.

Did you ever wonder what those 17-characters mean? Below is a quick guide to read and decode VIN of a vehicle at a glance:


1st Character: This represents where the car is built. For example, cars made in the U.S. start with 1,4 or 5, Canada is 2, Mexico is 3, Japan is J, Korea is K, England is S, and Germany is W.

2nd Character: This indicates the manufacturer of the car. For instance, A is for Audi, B is for BMW, L is for Lincoln and N is for Nissan.

3rd Character: This shows the vehicle’s type or manufacturing division. In this case, 1N4 is Nissan passenger car, or another example, 1GC is Chevrolet trucks.

4th – 8th Character: This is the vehicle description section, including information such as the model, body type, transmission type, and engine code.

9th Character: The “CHECK” digit, which detects invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation.

10th Character: This identified the years of the vehicle. The letters from B-X (not including I, O, Q, U) correspond to the model years starting with 1981, with X bringing up the rear with 2000; model years 2001 and up are indicated with numbers, starting with the number 1.

11th Character: This tells you the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled. Each auto maker has its own set of codes.

12th – 17th Character: This is the car’s serial number, assigned at the time of assembly.


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