What is a VIN? VIN stands for vehicle identification number. Think of it as your serial number for your car. It’s used to track major parts often as well. When someone asks for a “VIN number,” what they’re actually asking is for the vehicle identification number number (with two numbers), which is kinda interesting. Not unlike a business EIN number (which stands for employer identification number number….
VINs do not use the character letters I, O, Q, U or Z, to avoid confusion between letters and numbers.
You can break down a VIN number into its 17 characters (older cars may not have a full 17 characters though) to figure out the year, make, model, where it was built, and often other characteristics.
The first digit is the place the vehicle was built. For example, 1, 4, or 5 is United States. 2 is for Canada, 3 is for Mexico. Japan is a J, South Korea is K, England is S, Germany is W, and Sweden or Finland is Y.
The second (along with the third often) digit(s) tells you who the manufacturer is. For example, A can be for Audi (or Jaguar or Mitsubishi, you need the third digit to know which), B is for BMW, G is for General Motors, L is for Lincoln, and N is for Nissan.
The third digit ties in the manufacturer along with the second digit, as well as the first two digits, will let you know the vehicle’s type and manufacturing division. This is also known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). For a breakdown on what is what, you can read this Wiki page with updated tables. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Vehicle_Identification_Numbers_(VIN_codes)/World_Manufacturer_Identifier_(WMI)
The fourth through the ninth digits are used to describe the vehicle. Includes information such as the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type and engine code. While the ninth digit is part of this, it’s a check digit based on a math algorithm to check for bad VIN numbers
The next group, the 10-17 characters are the vehicle identifier part of the VIN. This is the serial number (along with Characters 12-17) of the particular vehicle and includes the model year (in the 10th position as follows)
The letters from B to Y correspond to the model years 1981 to 2000. The VIN does not use I, O, Q, U or Z. From 2001 to 2009, the numbers 1 through 9 were used in place of letters. The alphabet started over from A in 2010 and will continue until 2030. Yes, it’s confusing to say the least. Let’s take a look at the model years since 2000: Y=2000, 1=’01, 2=’02, 3=’03, 4=’04, 5=’05, 6=’06, 7=’07, 8=’08, 9=’09, A=’10, B=’11, C=’12, D=’13, E=’14, F=’15, G=’16, H=’17, J=’18, K=’19, L=’20.
Character 11 tells you where (manufacturing plant) the vehicle was assembled (most vehicles are made from parts made in many parts of the world). This leaves one to wonder if any vehicle is truly American or not when often it’s little more than the final last step assembly that occurs in the United States.
Characters 12-17 are the production sequence numbers, which each car receives while on the assembly line.