Free VIN Decoder

Grab Your Vin! Unearth a Wealth of Information Using Your Our Decoder

Don't worry--modern VIN tags are far easier to read. © Lonely Planet Images/Wade Eakle

With the start of 1981 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the very wise choice to standardize every vehicle identification number (VIN) for all cars, trucks and other type of vehicle sold in the United States. The VIN number is your vehicle’s fingerprint, a unique serial number that identifies your individual machine. VIN numbers were used by manufacturers prior to 1981, but each manufacturer had their own way of recording information, making it difficult to verify the vehicle’s authenticity…but not impossible.

If you’re just looking to squeeze as much information as you can out of a vehicle made in 1980 (as a 1981 model) or newer, we’ve got all the details right here.

 The Basics: What Model Year is My Vehicle?

 In Your vehicle’s 17-digit VIN, the 8th digit from the right end of the sequence is where you’ll find the model year (it’s the 10th digit in the sequence from the left). Knowing the designation for each model year will help you verify dates when you look at used pickup trucks.

 Years 1980 through 2000 are designated by a letter, beginning with A and ending with Y. The letters I, O, Q, U, and Z are not used, because they can be easily confused with either a number or another letter.

  • A: 1980
    B: 1981
    C: 1982
    D: 1983
    E: 1984
    F: 1985
    G: 1986
    H: 1987
    I: not used
    J : 1988
    K: 1989
    L: 1990
    M: 1991
    N: 1992
    O: not used
    P: 1993
    Q: not used
    R: 1994
    S: 1995
    T: 1996
    U: not used
    V: 1997
    W: 1998
    X: 1999
    Y: 2000
    Z: not used

From 2001 through 2009, numbers were used to designate a vehicle's model year.

  • 1: 2001
    2: 2002
    3: 2003
    4: 2004
    5: 2005
    6: 2006
    7: 2007
    8: 2008
    9: 2009

Starting in 2010, the VIN year identifier switched back to letters, since newer models aren't likely to be confused with anything built in the '80s.

  • A: 2010
  • B: 2011
  • C: 2012
  • D: 2013
  • E: 2014
  • F: 2015
  • G: 2016
  • H: 2017
  • J: 2018
  • K: 2019
  • L: 2020

 What the Other Digits Mean

 The first letter or number of your VIN tells you what region of the world your vehicle was manufactured in.

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

The second number, combined with the first letter or number, tells you what country your vehicle was manufactured in. Here’s a short list that covers most pickup trucks commonly available in the US.

  • 10-19; 1A-1Z; 40-59: United States
    20-29 and 2A-2Z: Canada
    30-39 and 3A-3Z: Mexico
     

The third and fourth numbers represent are specific to your manufacturer. They represent your engine type and the type of restraints your vehicle uses. Following those is a three digit code that says what the make and model of your vehicle is (these also are specific to your manufacturer).

That leaves us at the 9th digit, just before the year. This digit is what’s called a check code number, and it lets professionals determine if the VIN is authentic or not—similar to a hash value for files.

Everything beyond the 10th digit is manufacturer-specific, giving details about your vehicle like its assembly plant and special options.

Your VIN Unlocks Valuable Resources

There are many other great resources that give you valuable information through your VIN number.

Most notable of these resources is the NHTSA’s VIN Look-up Tool which will instantly alert you of recalls and serious issues that affect your vehicle. For many, this is the first step in getting a serious issue with their vehicle addressed or educating themselves about preventative measures they need to take to make their ride safe.

For those looking to purchase a used vehicle, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System has created a list of approved vendors for their vehicle history reports. These reports, updated with information from every DMV in the United States, is a great tool to keep yourself from becoming a victim of fraud. Purchasing one of these reports for a specific VIN gets you:

  • the vehicle’s current state of title and last date of title (letting you know that the title is valid and not a fake)
  • the vehicle’s brand history (brands are descriptive labels used by state motor vehicle agencies to describe the status of a vehicle  like “flood”, “salvage” or “junk”)
  • the last reported Odometer reading of the vehicle (to make sure you’re not about to be ripped off by an odometer scam)
  • the vehicle’s total loss history (if the vehicle was ever damaged beyond its worth, do you have confidence in how it was rebuilt? Does the sales price reflect its history?)
  • the vehicle’s salvage history (again, the sales price should reflect a history of damage and repair)

 

Major vendors like Carfax and Autocheck are trustworthy, as well, but you may save money by choosing a smaller, NMVTIS-approved vendor.

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Your Citation
Wickell, Dale. "Free VIN Decoder." ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/vin-decoder-3272277. Wickell, Dale. (2017, May 8). Free VIN Decoder. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/vin-decoder-3272277 Wickell, Dale. "Free VIN Decoder." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/vin-decoder-3272277 (accessed November 18, 2017).