What Does a Vin Number Mean?

by Andy Joseph

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN ) is a serial number the automobile world uses for identification of vehicles. The VIN has been the worldwide standard since 1981. Made of 17 digits, it consists of different sections.

World Manufacturer Identifier

Digits 1 to 3 comprise the World Manufacturer Identifier. This denotes what region of world the car was made.

Vehicle Attributes

Digits 4 to 8 make up the Vehicle Attributes section. This descriptor identifies the vehicle type, which usually consists of the car model and body type.

Check Digit

Digit 9 serves as the Check Digit. The Check Digit is a form of redundancy check used for error detection in the VIN.

Model Year

Digit 10 is used to decode the model year of the vehicle. This is usually represented by any letter in alphabet save for I, O, Q, U and Z.

Plant Code

Digit 11 represents the Plant Code. This is used to identify the factory the car was manufactured.

Sequential or Manufacturer Identifier

The last digits of a VIN, 12 to 17, get more specific with the car's origin. What that means is that the digits identify the car's manufacturer; it is the code the car company uses for their products.

About the Author

Based in the D.C. area, Andy Joseph works full-time as a data analyst and technical writer. He has been writing articles about technology, health, politics, music, culture and automobiles since 2007. His work has appeared in The Express, Congressional Report and Road & Track. He has a master's degree in journalism and technology management.