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Cracking the VIN Code

June 7, 2021

Color coded breakdown of VIN identifiers


Your car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) may seem like a random assortment of characters, but each number and letter corresponds to important information about your car.

With this information, you’ll sound savvy the next time you tell your agent the 17 character vehicle number (VIN) on your new car.

The following letters are NOT ever used under the current VIN system: O, I, and Q. This is to prevent confusion with the numerals 0, 1, and 9, respectively.

The current VIN system was put in place in 1981, so all vehicles newer than then will have 17 characters. Earlier models will have noticeably shorter VINs.

You can also tell what year your vehicle is based on the 10th character, using a recurring 1-9 and alpha rule. Current model years are cycling the alphabet: 2020 – L, 2021 – M, 2022 – N and so on (excluding the pesky I, O, and Q as previously noted; plus the 10th will never be U nor Z). It will be 2031 before we are back to using numbers.

Check out the graphic above for more neat info.