The VIN on Your Vehicle: How All Those Numbers Add Up

vin on your vehicleEvery car, truck or motorcycle in the world today, other than a few antiques, has a unique vehicle identification number (VIN) stamped on it. The VIN on your vehicle serves as its unique fingerprint. VINs are used to track each vehicle, making it possible to get a vehicle history report when shopping for a used car.  If you know how to read the VIN on your vehicle, it can tell you quite a bit about the car: where and when it was made, and by whom; the type of chassis or engine it has (or had, when new); and even whether the VIN itself is real or a fake.

There are 17 digits in a modern vehicle identification number. Below are details on what each digit means.

  • Country of origin – The first digit is coded for the country in which the vehicle was assembled. For example, the U.S. is either 1, 4 or 5; Japan is J; and Germany is W.
  • Manufacturer – The second digit represents the manufacturer. For example, BMW is B and Ford is F. The third digit specifies the manufacturing division or type.
  • Vehicle descriptor – The next five digits (digits four through eight) describe the vehicle and can include codes (set by the manufacturer) for model, body style and engine type.
  • Check digit – The ninth digit is the “check digit.” If the check digit is wrong, the VIN on your vehicle has been forged.
  • Model year – The 10th digit is the model year. Model years are coded by a single letter or number. The letters I, O, Q, U, and Z are not used, and neither is the number zero. That leaves 30 letters and numbers, so this code recycles every 30 years. The first cycle ended in 2009 with 9, and 2010 started over with A.
  • Manufacturing plant – The 11th digit is a letter code for the manufacturing plant.
  • Vehicle identifier – The final six digits make up the car’s individual production number.

If you have any questions about reading the VIN on your vehicle, please contact us at

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