How to Read a VIN

Complete Guide on How to Read a VIN





When it comes to cars, you’ve probably heard of the VIN or vehicle identification number. But knowing how to read a VIN is important. This is a number every vehicle has, which is unique to it. There are many things which a VIN can tell you, such as the location of manufacturing, the year, the model, the make, and so much more.

That said, reading a VIN is easier said than done. Did you know that there are a total of 17 characters present in a VIN number? This means that a simple 17 digit VIN can provide you with a lot of information about a given car. But, how do you read them?

How to Read a VIN – The Digits of a VIN

We want to show you what each of those letters or numbers in a VIN mean. There may be a lot to deal with, but once you become familiar with it, it’s actually quite easy to grasp.

The World Manufacturer Identifier

The first 3 digits in the VIN number are the WMI or the world manufacturer identifier. These first 3 digits or letters will tell you where the vehicle was made and what kind of vehicle it is.

How to read a vin

The First Position

The very first number or letter in the VIN (this may be a number or a letter), tells you in which region of the world the vehicle was made, on which continent. Here is what the letters and numbers mean.

  • A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H are  made in Africa
  • L, K, L, M, N, and P are made in Asia
  • S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z are made in Europe
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are made in North America
  • 6 and 7 are made in Oceania
  • 8 and 9 are made in South America

The Second Position

The second number also tells you where the vehicle was made, but instead of the continent, this second digit tells you in which country the car was made. There are over 600 VIN country code combinations out there (first digit or letter + second digit). To find out exactly where your car is from, you will need to look these codes up.

The Third Position

The third digit in the VIN number indicates the manufacturer of the car or the type of vehicle that it is; this will depend on the manufacturer. In most cases it will inform you if the vehicle in question is a car, truck, bus, SUV, and so on.

Vehicle Descriptor Section – VDS

The vehicle descriptor section ranges from the fourth to the ninth digit, and this will provide you with important information in regards the specs of the vehicle, among other information.

Positions 4 Through 8

The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth digits in a VIN number, depending on the specific manufacturer, can stand for a variety of things. Before you try and decode the VIN on your own, you need to look up what these numbers mean for your specific manufacturer. These digits can stand for things such as the vehicle model, body style, engine type, engine code, restraint system, and other such details.

The Ninth Position

This is an interesting part of the VIN number, as this ninth digit does not actually tell you anything about the vehicle itself. This is called the VIN check digit, and it’s used to see if you have the correct VIN. In other words, it’s a security measure to help separate legit VIN numbers from fraudulent ones.

Vehicle Identifier Section – VIS

The remaining digits, 10 through 17, form the vehicle identifier section. These digits inform you of various aspects concerning the vehicles manufacturing date, features, options, and so on.

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The Tenth Position

The 10th digit in the VIN is actually a letter, and each letter coincides with a specific year of manufacture. It tells you what the model year of the vehicle is. You can use the below table to figure out which letters coincide with which dates.

Before you take a look at this list, it is important to realize that each letter or number has 2 different years assigned to it. You need to find out which one of these applies to your specific VIN. To do this, look at the 7th number or letter in the VIN.

If the 7th position is a number, then your vehicle was made before 2010, and if the 7th position in the VIN is a letter, then the vehicle was made after 2010.

  • A = 1980
  • B = 1981
  • C = 1982
  • D = 1983
  • E = 1984
  • F = 1985
  • G = 1986
  • H = 1987
  • J = 1988
  • K = 1989
  • L = 1990
  • M = 1991
  • N = 1992
  • P = 1993
  • R = 1994
  • S = 1995
  • T = 1996
  • V = 1997
  • W = 1998
  • X = 1999
  • 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
  • N = 2022
  • P = 2023
  • R = 2024
  • S = 2025
  • T = 2026
  • V = 2027
  • W = 2028
  • X = 2029
  • Y = 2030
  • 1 = 2031
  • 2 = 2032
  • 3 = 2033
  • 4 = 2034
  • 5 = 2035
  • 6 = 2036
  • 7 = 2037
  • 8 = 2038
  • 9 = 2039

Positions 11 Through 17

This is the part of the VIN where the manufacturer enters specific information pertaining to the vehicle. Exactly which digits mean what is going to be different from one company to another, so this is something you will have to do some research on. This could be information such as the extra options the vehicle comes with, the production sequence number, the assembly plant, and more.

VINS with Fewer Than 17 Characters

Something to be aware of is that vehicles made before 1981 often have VIN numbers shorter than 17 digits, sometimes 13 digits. So, how to read a VIN for these vehicles, the formula for decoding the VIN will be different. That said, modern vehicles usually always have 17 digit VIN numbers. See this article for tips on how to read a VIN on older vehicles.


Now you should know how to read a VIN number and know what each of the characters means. Don’t forget that there are services available that can decode VIN numbers for you, so you don’t have to do any of the work on your own. Use our free VIN decoder to find out the history of the VIN you’re looking at.





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