How to Determine a Vehicle Model by VIN

by Cynthia Myers

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) contains information about the automobile’s origins, make, model and body features. Each vehicle in the United States has a unique VIN. If you know a vehicle’s VIN, you can use that number to learn the car’s ownership history, to find out if it’s ever been in a wreck or been stolen. The VIN is recorded on the dash and/or doorframe of the vehicle and on the car’s title. In addition, major components of the car, such as the engine, transmission, bumpers and doors, may be etched with the VIN.

Repo man checking the VIN on a vehicle in process of being repossessed
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Note the second character in the VIN. This character indicates the manufacturer of the vehicle. Each manufacturer is assigned a specific letter or numeral. A partial list of these manufacturer codes includes Audi (A), Dodge (B), Chrysler (C), Mercedes Benz (D), Ford (F), General Motors (G), Honda (H), Lincoln (L), Mercury (M), Nissan (N), Plymouth (P), Subaru (S), Toyota (T), Volvo (V), Chevrolet (1), Pontiac (2 or 5), Oldsmobile (3), Buick (4), Cadillac (6), GM Canada (7), Saturn (8).

Used Car Dealership
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Note the third character in the VIN, which indicates the vehicle type or the manufacturing division. Each manufacturer is assigned specific numbers or letters for its cars. Once you have determined the manufacturer, you can search online or in a library for a guide to that manufacturer’s specific VIN number codes (see Resources).

Girls in 1950's costumes pose by vintage automobile
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Move to the tenth character of the VIN. This indicates the model year. Letters A-Y are for model years 1980-2000 (There is no O or Q). Numerals 1-9 are for years 1971-1979 or 2001-2009. 2010 is designated with the letter A. The sequences repeat every thirty years.

About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.

Photo Credits

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