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How to Find Motorcycle Years by VIN Numbers

by Jean Asta

Vehicle Identification Numbers, or VINs, appeared for the first time in the 1950s when Detroit vehicle manufacturers began to imprint identification numbers on their vehicles and parts. Until the early 1980s, however, VINs were not standard. Since then the VIN format has been a standard sequence of 17 alphanumeric characters for all motor vehicles, motorcycles, trailers and mopeds. If your VIN does not follow the standard format, you know it was built before 1980, but you will need to contact the manufacturer to decipher the model year.

Locate the VIN on the motorcycle or on the motorcycle's title.

Starting from the left-hand side of the sequence, count to the 10th character in the 17 character sequence. Note this character. For example, in the sequence 1KMH78978XA89B328, the 10th character is the letter X.

Identify the year of manufacturer as follows: A through Y except I, O, and Q correspond to the years 1980 through 2000 in sequence; 1 through 9 correspond to the years 2001 through 2009 in sequence. In our example, X corresponds to the year 1999.


  • Note that the sequence of characters identifying model year starts again with A corresponding to 2010 and following the same pattern of A through Y except I, O and U and then 1 through 9 for years through 2039. Therefore, you need to know generally how old the motorcycle is since the character "X" could refer to a 1999 model or, eventually, a 2029 model.

About the Author

Jean Asta has been a freelance writer for domestic and international clients since 2005. She also acts as a training consultant to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the southeast United States. Asta holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, both from the University of Georgia.

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