What Do the Digits in a VIN Number Mean?

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The numbers and letters in a vehicle identification number indicate country of origin or assembly, make, type, distinguishing details, check digits, production year, place of production and production number. Beginning in 1981, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration started assigning cars and lightweight trucks unique 17-digit VINs. These numbers begin with country of origin and end with distinct serial numbers.

Despite containing unique information, VINs share formats. The first digit indicates country of origin. The second digit shows car brand; some letters and numbers represent multiple manufacturers. The fourth through eighth digits identify details like model and engine type. A check digit creates the 10th digit, while the last seven digits form the Vehicle Identifier Section. This section includes model year, assembly plant and production number.