How to Understand and Interpret VIN Codes


The VIN code (vehicle identification number) on a vehicle is vitally important, and each part of the code means something. The numbers and letters of the VIN code tell the vehicle’s story and history. This code also tells where the car was made, who made it, and gives information about the engine. For those purchasing pre-owned vehicles, the VIN code will tell them what has been done to the car, if it has been in an accident and what repairs were made, and any transaction associated with that specific vehicle.


VIN codes today contain 17 characters, letters and numbers combined; many years ago, before 1981, there were fewer characters in many VIN codes.


VIN Identification vehicle reconstruction

Instructions on how to interpret VIN codes:


1. The VIN number is located in the title of a vehicle or the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side. It’s easier to just write the code down on a piece of paper, although you may need a magnifying glass.


2. The first character of the VIN code will tell you where the vehicle was built. The number 1, lets you know that the vehicle was made in the U.S.; the numbers 4 and 5 are also U.S. codes. The number 2 is the code for Canada, 6, Australia, and 9 is Brazil, Some countries use letters for their codes, such as, J:Japan, K:Korea, V is used for France and Germany. The letters T and W are also used for Germany.  Z is Italy, Y is for Finland and Sweden.


3. The second character of the VIN code represents the vehicle’s manufacturer. For example, A:Audi, B:BMW, T:Toyota, C:Chrysler, F:Ford. Other car manufacturers are represented by numbers, and some by multiple letters or numbers.


4. The third character of the VIN code, tells the type or division of manufacturing. If interested, you will most likely need to contact the manufacturer to truly decipher what this number or letter actually means for you.

5. The fourth through the eighth characters, provide info, such as, body type, series, engine size, and model of the vehicle.


6. The 9th character verifies the accuracy of the first 8, and the 10th character of the VIN code identifies the model year of the vehicle. The 11th character represents the assembly plant where the vehicle was made.


7. The next 6 characters of the VIN code are the vehicle’s serial number, and the last 4 characters represent the vehicle’s production sequence, meaning when it actually came off the assembly line.