How Are VINs Populated?


Quick Answer

Vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, are populated by auto manufacturers when they create the vehicle by following the standard protocol that lists the country of origin, the manufacturer, the type of vehicle, the car's details, the year, the assembly plant and the production number. The VIN will never feature the letters Q, I or O.

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Full Answer

Originally, the VIN was not standardized and so it was difficult for the VINs to be useful in any way. However, in 1981, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration decided to create a standard format that would be used by all manufacturers. As of 2015, the VIN is a 17-digit number that is unique to each vehicle and all vehicles that were created in 1981 or later have one.

For all cars that are manufactured in the United States, the first number of the VIN will be a 1, 4 or a 5. The second digit will tell car owners what manufacturer created the car such as a C for "Chrysler" or a N for "Nissan." The VIN is most commonly used for legal purposes and identification purposes. It also makes it easy for people who are interested in purchasing a new car to find information about the car's history including all possible negative events, such as accidents.

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