Decoding a VIN

Every vehicle carries a unique Vehicle Identification Number, which encodes essential information about it, such as what kind of vehicle it is, who manufactured it, where, and when.

There are two different, but essentially compatible 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number standards. The North American VIN system, and International Standard ISO 3779, which is used in most of the rest of the world.

These tables show how the numbers are structured:

North America

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Manufacturer Identifier Vehicle Attributes Check Digit Model Year Plant Code Sequential Number

ISO 3779

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
World Manufacturer Identifier
Vehicle Descriptor System
Vehicle Identifier System

Here is how an example of a North American VIN would be decoded:

Decoding a VIN country of origin

First digit (country of origin)

This number or letter tells you where the vehicle was manufactured. For instance, a '1' means that the vehicle was made in the United States, a '2' is for Canada, a 'J' means Japan and so on.

Decoding a VIN manufacturer

Second digit (manufacturer)

This digit is usually a letter, and will tell you the name of the Manufacturer; in this case the vehicle was made by General Motors.


Decoding a VIN division

Third digit (division)

This digit will tell you the Division that made the car. It could be a Pontiac, an Oldsmobile or a GMC truck. Here it is Chevrolet.


Decoding a VIN model & series

Fourth & fifth digits (model and series)

These two digits will give you the model, or series, of the vehicle. You'll need a decoding chart for the details; here we have a standard Corvette.


Decoding a VIN body type

Sixth digit (body type)

This digit describes the body type: 2-door, 4-door, coupe, sedan and so on.


Decoding a VIN seat belt system

Seventh digit (seat belt system)

This digit tells you the type of seat restraints fitted to the vehicle. In this case it is Manual belts.


Decoding a VIN engine code

Eighth digit (engine code)

This digit is the Engine code, which will let you find details of the engine type, size, or displacement, and where the engine was made.


Decoding a VIN check digit

Ninth digit (check digit)

This is the Check digit. It is used internally by the manufacturer.


Decoding a VIN year of manufacture

Tenth digit (year of manufacture)

This letter will tell you the Year of Manufacture. You can decode the digit according to a chart, which in this example shows us that the vehicle was assembled in 1984.


Decoding a VIN factory code

Eleventh digit (factory code)

This digit tells you the Assembly Plant or Factory where the vehicle was put together. In this case it is Bowling Green Kentucky.


Decoding a VIN plant sequential number

Last six digits (plant sequential number)

The final six numbers make up the sequential number of the vehicle as it comes off the assembly line plus one hundred thousand (100000). So the first vehicle to be produced will have the number 100001. In our example, the vehicle was the thirty-eight thousand two hundred and twenty-seventh to come off the assembly line in that year.