How many numbers are in a VIN?

Modern VINs contain 17 characters. Vehicle Identification Numbers have existed since the early 1950s, but there was no standardized format until 1981. That's when the National Highway Safety Administration introduced the current format, requiring all vehicles driven on public roads to have a 17-character VIN. Modern VINs do not use the letters O, I or Q in order to avoid confusion with the numbers 0, 1 and 9. Carmakers have been required to make the VIN visible from outside the car via a stamped metal plate on the dashboard since 1968, which makes it easy to do a VIN lookup. Prior to that, the VIN could be found stamped onto the frame or even the engine of a vehicle.

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How do you find engine size from a VIN?

The eighth character in your car's VIN is the engine code. Characters four through eight are what's known as the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS), and contain information such as the brand, body type, engine code and other important specifications.

From here, you'll need to take your vehicle's year, make, model and engine code to an auto parts store or mechanic. Unfortunately, manufacturers have some leeway in how they code the VDS, meaning there's no standard index for engine codes across brands. If you can't make it to a store, running your car's VIN through Bumper's VIN Decoder will reveal your engine type. One benefit of being a Bumper subscriber is that you can run multiple VIN lookups.

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How to decode a VIN number

The easiest way to decode your VIN is to type it into Bumper's VIN Decoder. Doing so could reveal your car's vehicle history in a matter of seconds, including all the information coded into the VIN. All US vehicles manufactured after 1981 can be read in the following format:

  • Characters 1-3 are the World Manufacturer Identifier. They reveal the manufacturer's geographic region, country of origin and the manufacturer, respectively.
  • Characters 4-8 are the Vehicle Descriptor Section. These characters correspond to components like the engine type, model, body style and gross vehicle weight range. Auto manufacturers have some discretion to decide how they want to code this section.
  • Character 9 is the "check digit." Based on a formula developed by the US Department of Transportation, it helps reduce fraud by ensuring the validity of the VIN.
  • Character 10 is the model year. It can either be numerical (1-9) or an alphabet character (excluding I, O, U, Q and Z). This can be decoded by referencing the below table:

    VIN Character Codes

    Code Year Code Year Code Year Code Year
    A 1980 L 1990 Y 2000 A 2010
    B 1981 M 1991 1 2001 B 2011
    C 1982 N 1992 2 2002 C 2012
    D 1983 P 1993 3 2003 D 2013
    E 1984 R 1994 4 2004 E 2014
    F 1985 S 1995 5 2005 F 2015
    G 1986 T 1996 6 2006 G 2016
    H 1987 V 1997 7 2007 H 2017
    J 1988 W 1998 8 2008 J 2018
    K 1989 X 1999 9 2009 K 2019
    Code Year Code Year
    A 1980 Y 2000
    B 1981 1 2001
    C 1982 2 2002
    D 1983 3 2003
    E 1984 4 2004
    F 1985 5 2005
    G 1986 6 2006
    H 1987 7 2007
    J 1988 8 2008
    K 1989 9 2009
    L 1990 A 2010
    M 1991 B 2011
    N 1992 C 2012
    P 1993 D 2013
    R 1994 E 2014
    S 1995 F 2015
    T 1996 G 2016
    V 1997 H 2017
    W 1998 J 2018
    X 1999 K 2019
  • Character 11 is the vehicle plant and plant location where the car was manufactured.
  • Characters 12-17 represent the serial number assigned to the vehicle at the assembly plant.

Can't find your VIN? No problem. As an alternative, you can do a license plate search to get access to the same information.

Bumper makes decoding a VIN easy

With just 17 characters, your car's VIN contains a wealth of information. Anyone who owns a car or is in the market to buy or sell one can use Bumper to find and decode a VIN, but a Bumper subscription unlocks so much more. Use the VIN lookup feature to find your vehicle's history report, and then head over to Bumper Marketplace to see what similar models are selling for. We haven't even mentioned Bumper Rewards, our partnership with top brands including RepairSmith, SpotHero, throtl and Openbay, to offer our customers perks and discounts that could add up to hundreds to thousands of dollars in savings. If you're not already a member, why not subscribe today?

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