There are two different, but essentially compatible 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number standards. The North American VIN system, and International Standard ISO 3779, which is used in most of the rest of the world.
These tables show how the numbers are structured:
|Manufacturer Identifier||Vehicle Attributes||Check Digit||Model Year||Plant Code||Sequential Number|
World Manufacturer Identifier
Vehicle Descriptor System
Vehicle Identifier System
Here is how an example of a North American VIN would be decoded:
First digit (country of origin)
This number or letter tells you where the vehicle was manufactured. For instance, a '1' means that the vehicle was made in the United States, a '2' is for Canada, a 'J' means Japan and so on.
Second digit (manufacturer)
This digit is usually a letter, and will tell you the name of the Manufacturer; in this case the vehicle was made by General Motors.
Third digit (division)
This digit will tell you the Division that made the car. It could be a Pontiac, an Oldsmobile or a GMC truck. Here it is Chevrolet.
Fourth & fifth digits (model and series)
These two digits will give you the model, or series, of the vehicle. You'll need a decoding chart for the details; here we have a standard Corvette.
Sixth digit (body type)
This digit describes the body type: 2-door, 4-door, coupe, sedan and so on.
Seventh digit (seat belt system)
This digit tells you the type of seat restraints fitted to the vehicle. In this case it is Manual belts.
Eighth digit (engine code)
This digit is the Engine code, which will let you find details of the engine type, size, or displacement, and where the engine was made.
Ninth digit (check digit)
This is the Check digit. It is used internally by the manufacturer.
Tenth digit (year of manufacture)
This letter will tell you the Year of Manufacture. You can decode the digit according to a chart, which in this example shows us that the vehicle was assembled in 1984.
Eleventh digit (factory code)
This digit tells you the Assembly Plant or Factory where the vehicle was put together. In this case it is Bowling Green Kentucky.
Last six digits (plant sequential number)
The final six numbers make up the sequential number of the vehicle as it comes off the assembly line plus one hundred thousand (100000). So the first vehicle to be produced will have the number 100001. In our example, the vehicle was the thirty-eight thousand two hundred and twenty-seventh to come off the assembly line in that year.