How to Find a Vehicle's Serial Number and Year

by Oxana Fox
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Automotive manufacturers assign a unique serial number called a vehicle identification number (VIN) to every motor vehicle for identification purposes. Since 1981, each VIN has 17 characters made up of numbers and letters that encode the various vehicle information including the year it was manufactured. The VIN is used on all legal vehicle documents such as the title, registration and car loan papers. Based on a VIN, you can also obtain a vehicle history report from agencies like CARFAX.

Step 1

Locate the 17-digit VIN printed on the driver’s side interior part of the car's dashboard. Write down the entire serial number, including both number and letter characters. The tenth character in VIN encodes the vehicle year.

Step 2

Click on the link to the "Vehicle Identification Number Requirements" document given in the References section of this article.

Step 3

Find "Table VI: Year Codes for VIN” near the end of that document.

Step 4

Locate the tenth character of your VIN among those listed in the table column labeled “Code.” The corresponding vehicle year is given in the same row in the column titled “Year.” For instance, the code “T” indicates that the car was manufactured in 1996.

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