Decoding VIN

Decoding a Vehicle's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

The first Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) designed for vehicles were not standardized. However that problem was resolved beginning in 1981, when vehicles were assigned an International VIN code which consists of 17 characters (which cannot include the letter I, O or Q) unique to each vehicle.

Where To Find The VIN On Your Vehicle For Decoding

The Vehicle Identification Number is most commonly found inside the windshield or driver's side door jam.

Once the VIN has been decoded, it can be used to verify vehicle information such as the Country in which it was manufactured, Manufacturer, Body Style, Engine Type, Model, Model Year and more. There are several sites on the Internet that will help you decode the VIN number for the different manufacturers, such as BMW, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge to just mention a few.

Additionally, with the VIN of a vehicle you have opportunities to find out many different things about the vehicle. Such as:

---You can visit CARFAX for a report on that specific vehicle. CARFAX will give you a history of the vehicle, whether it's been identified as a "lemon," salvaged title, whether it has been in a major accident, if it's a flood damaged vehicle, if there's been odometer fraud, plus many other things based on the information that is available to them.

--- You can check out the latest information on compliance testing, recalls and technical service bulletins from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The list goes on.

Tips For Decoding The VIN On Your Vehicle... 

1st character- Identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured.

For example: U.S.A.(1or4), Canada(2), Mexico(3), Japan(J), Korea(K), England(S), Germany(W), Italy(Z)

2nd character- Identifies the manufacturer.

For example; Audi (A), BMW (B), Buick (4), Cadillac (6), Chevrolet (1), Chrysler (C), Dodge (B), Ford (F), GM Canada (7), General Motors (G), Honda (H), Jaguar (A), Lincoln (L), Mercedes Benz (D), Mercury (M), Nissan (N), Oldsmobile (3), Pontiac (2or5), Plymouth (P), Saturn (8), Toyota (T), VW (V), Volvo (V).

3rd character - Identifies vehicle type or manufacturing division.

4th to 8th characters - Identifies vehicle features such as body style, engine type, model, series, etc.

9th character - Identifies VIN accuracy as check digit.

10th character- Identifies the model year.

11th character- Identifies the assembly plant for the vehicle.

12th to 17th characters- Identifies the sequence of the vehicle for production as it rolled of the manufacturer's assembly line.

About The Author

Robert Carver is a BMW Sales Advisor. Visit him at his website at for information about BMWs.

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"Little use for identifying a particular car's details. Check out the equivalant Ford site, much for useful."


"I am trying to figure out how to use the vin for numbers 4-8. I know it is the vehicle description, but how do I decode it? For example, can I tell if a vehicle has a CD player (or any other option) using it?"