What to Look for in a Ford Mustang VIN and Vehicle History Report

What to Look for in a Ford Mustang VIN and Vehicle History Report

There are few American cars that have the history and beloved status of the Ford Mustang. The only pop culture rival is maybe the Chevrolet Corvette, but the Mustang is known for being a bargain player. With attractive looks, and plenty of power in an affordable package, it’s easy to see the appeal. The massive aftermarket parts industry has noticed, and the Mustang is one of the easiest and most affordable vehicles to customize to your style, whether that’s simply an exhaust system or a booming stereo, to doubling the factory horsepower via forced induction. 

Keep in mind that some of these older ponies have been babied all their life, while others have been ridden hard. Decoding a Ford Mustang’s VIN as part of your research process can help you understand its unique specifications and make the right call if you’re in the market for a new ‘Stang. 

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With a Bumper subscription, you can get the background on up to 50 vehicles every month. Coupe or convertible, manual or auto, it doesn’t matter the generation of Mustang or whether it has the vaunted 5.0 V8 or other powertrains—we’ve got the info to help you understand what to look for in a Mustang’s VIN and in its vehicle history report.

Identifying Mustang trim levels

The Ford Mustang has a range of trims, including the base, GT, Cobra, Mach 1, Bullitt, GT350 and GT500, and new Dark Horse variations. Each trim has unique specifications and performance attributes, and the VIN can precisely identify which trim a Mustang is. This information is vital to ascertain if the vehicle meets your needs and preferences.

Mustang model-year and manufacturing country info

The production year and place of manufacture play a critical role in the car’s reliability and parts availability. For instance, older Mustangs may require more specialized care such as high-zinc engine oil or harder-to-find replacement parts. Our VIN lookup can help you determine the production details, allowing you to plan for potential maintenance and repair needs.

Accident and damage information

Mustangs, being performance-oriented, might have been driven aggressively, leading to potential accidents or damage. Any recorded accident or damage information can greatly influence a Mustang’s value and longevity. Using our VIN lookup could give you insights into the vehicle’s past, which could help you in your research to decide if the purchase is worth it.

Ford Mustang recall information

Certain Mustang models have had recalls in the past. For example, the 2021 Mustang was recalled for a potentially improper weld that could lead to incorrect airbag deployment. Unaddressed recalls can pose safety risks and potentially expensive repairs.

Engine replacements

A replaced engine could indicate the Mustang was driven hard or suffered from poor maintenance. Odds are this isn’t something you can tell simply by popping the hood. A VIN lookup could help you determine if the engine type matches the original specifications for the model and trim if a completely different power plant was dropped into a Mustang’s engine bay, providing potential insights into the vehicle’s treatment over its lifetime.

Maintenance history

Regular maintenance is crucial for a performance vehicle like the Mustang. On-time oil changes prevent premature engine wear. Replacing the transmission and differential oil prevents drivetrain whine and clunks when shifting. Persistent issues like oil leaks or excessive oil consumption can hint at bigger problems, so it’s always good to ask for maintenance records and any available receipts for a Mustang’s service history.

Mustang Generations

Few vehicles carry a legacy like the Ford Mustang. Known for its powerful performance and sporty design with mass-market appeal, this iconic car has evolved through six generations since its debut in 1964. When buying a used Mustang, it’s crucial to examine its vehicle history report as a first step in your research to try and ensure you’re investing wisely.

From the fourth generation onward, the Mustang saw a more modern style, high-performance variants and technological advancements.

Fourth generation (1994-2004)

The fourth-generation Mustang offered base, GT, Cobra, and later, the Bullitt and Mach 1 in an all-new exterior and interior that debuted for 1994. The fourth-gen did away with the previous boxy look in favor of very ‘90s curves and bright colors. This generation gets a massive refresh in 1999, so enthusiasts know it by it’s Ford production code name of SN-95 for the 1994 to 1998 models, and the New Edge name for 1999 to 2004 based on the popular Ford design style of the time. These changes are far more than just looks, ranging from replacing tape players and carburetors with CD players and fuel injection.  

The early SN-95 offered the old “five-oh” 5.0L V8, while the 1996 and up Mustangs received the 4.6L with basically the same power, until 1999 when it jumped to 260 hp. The base V6 isn’t really worth considering at this point, as it is severely underpowered. Cobras are incredibly fun, but the supercharged ‘03 and ‘04 models are pricey collectors items. Manual and automatic transmissions have proven stout over the years. While an overall solidly reliable car, the composite intake manifold was prone to cracking with age. Ask about the maintenance history to see if it was replaced, or consult a vehicle history report. 

Fifth generation (2005-2014)

The fifth generation saw the return of the Mustang’s classic design cues. With big retro looks and a classy interior, the 2005 looks peak ‘60s classic muscle car brought into the modern age. Inside, the Mustang was worthy of a road trip, with more interior space and upgrades like improved sound systems and navigation. Many buyers simply wanted the good looks and performance, so the fifth-gen stuck with the familiar formula that worked. This design was a massive hit, so there are still plenty of solid examples still on the road. 

Available fifth-gen trims included base V6, the V8 GT, the returning Bullitt, and the new Shelby GT500 replacing the Cobra. The base 4.0L V6 was derided as a truck engine, but serves the needs of commuters. The 4.6L V8 offered improvements over the previous generation, and the GT rounded out the package with larger wheels and brakes. The Bullitt returned for 2008, with it’s special green paint and performance upgrades, but the big news was the Shelby GT500. Featuring a supercharged 5.4L V8, it made 500 hp and was quick at the track. For high-performance trims like Shelby GT500, look for a clear branded title check, indicating no severe damage or issues.

Sixth generation (2015-present)

The new 2015 Mustang looked like an evolutionary design, but introduced significant mechanical improvements and advanced technologies. The biggest news might have been under the car, as 2015 was the first year that all Mustang trims featured independent rear suspension. This is a common sports car layout that delivers excellent cornering capabilities without beating you up over uneven pavement and potholes. All engines proved stout, with a base 300 horsepower V6 leading the lineup. 

If driving quality matters to you, look into a sixth-gen Mustang with the optional performance package. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions improve the driving experience with any engine, and even the base V6 offers driving fun. Note that base models feature the EcoBoost four-cylinder starting in 2018, making 310 hp. The Mustang GT passed 400 hp from its refreshed 5.0L V8, and the special edition Bullitt returned for 2019. New to the Mustang lineup (or, returning after 50 years), is the race-ready Shelby GT350 with a powerful new Shelby GT500.

Mustang ownership outlook

When considering a used Mustang, pay attention to the vehicle history report details like the number of previous owners, reported odometer readings, and any accident history. Make sure to compare the market value of the car to try and ensure a fair deal, and pay attention to whether it was registered in a flood-prone state!

Mustangs have had some recalls over the years, such as airbag issues for 2005-2014 models, transmission issues in 2012-2013 models and engine oil cooler tube problems in 2015-2017 models. 

Our car depreciation calculator can also be used to estimate how a Mustang’s value will change over time.

Decoding a Ford Mustang’s VIN

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17-character code assigned to each Mustang that serves as its identifier. Each Mustang VIN can provide invaluable insights about the car’s manufacturing location, specs and options.

Decode a Mustang’s VIN and get its vehicle history report right here!

  • 1st-3rd Characters: World Manufacturer Identifier
    • These denote the country and manufacturer. For Mustangs, the first character is “1” or “4”, representing the US, and the next two characters (“FA”) indicate Ford passenger car.
  • 4th Character: Restraint System Type
    • This could range from active belts to airbags.
  • 5th Character: Vehicle Line, Series and Body Type
    • F: two-door coupe
    • T: two-door convertible
    • C: GT two-door coupe
    • P: GT two-door convertible
  • 6th Character: Engine Type
    • Each Mustang engine has a unique code. Here are the codes for the Mustang engines from 1996 onward:
      • 4: is for the 3.8L OHV V6 (1996-2004)
      • X: stands for the 4.6L SOHC V8 (1996-2010)
      • V: represents the 3.9L OHV V6 (2004 only)
      • H: signifies the 4.0L SOHC V6 (2005-2010)
      • N: denotes the 3.7L DOHC V6 (2011-2017)
      • F: is for the 5.0L DOHC V8 (2011-2017, 2019-present)
      • P: stands for the 4.6L DOHC V8 (1996-2004)
      • Y: indicates the 5.4L DOHC V8 (2007-2012)
      • R: represents the 5.2L Flat Plane V8 (2016–present)
      • Z: denotes the 5.2L Cross Plane V8 (2020-present)
      • D: signifies the 2.3L EcoBoost I4 (2015-present)
  • 7-8th Characters: Restraint System and Model Change
    • These specify the restraint system and indicate whether the model has undergone changes within the production year.
  • 9th Character
    • This is a security measure used to verify the VIN’s authenticity.
  • 10th Character: Model Year 
    • This character indicates the model year. For instance, “W” stands for 1998, “1” is 2001, and “K” is 2019.
  • 11th Character: Assembly Plant
    • This character shows where the Mustang was assembled. Here are the assembly plants for the Mustang from 1996 onward:
      • F: signifies Dearborn, Michigan. This plant has been the primary production site for the Mustang throughout its history.
      • T: denotes AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan. This plant started Mustang production in 2004.
  • 12-17th Characters: Sequential Production Number
    • These unique numbers identify the order in which the car came off the assembly line.

Get the specifics on a Ford Mustang you’re interested in, from its original features down to its accident and ownership history.

Remember, a Ford Mustang is more than just a car; it’s a symbol of American culture. Make sure you’re getting the best deal by thoroughly researching the car’s history. Tools like our VIN decoder, license plate searchcar title search and vehicle history report can provide a great starting point.

Take the time to explore all available resources, compare options in the marketplace and feel confident that you’re making a sound investment in a Mustang that will bring you many smiles per gallon for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I be concerned about engine replacements in a Ford Mustang's history?

Most likely. An engine replacement could indicate that the car has been driven hard or was poorly maintained. Our VIN lookup tool can ensure the engine type matches the original specifications for the model and trim.

Are oil leaks or oil-consumption issues common in used Ford Mustangs?

While oil leaks or consumption are uncommon in Mustangs, they can occur, especially in older or high-performance models. These issues could hint at underlying problems, like a worn engine. Be sure to inspect the car’s service history for regular oil changes and any records of such issues.

How do I know if the Mustang I'm considering has any open recalls?

Try our vehicle recall check tool to search for any open recalls on the Mustang you’re considering. Recalls can range from minor fixes to critical safety issues, so it’s essential to address them promptly.

What are the signs of aggressive driving in a Ford Mustang's history?

Signs of aggressive driving could include bald rear tires, paint chips behind the tires, frequent tire changes, brake replacements, and transmission repairs. 

Remember, purchasing a used car, especially a performance vehicle like the Mustang, requires careful research and inspection. Use available resources like ourcar research tool and our license plate search as a starting point to try and ensure your potential Mustang is a wise (and fun) investment.

About Bumper

At Bumper, we are on a mission to bring vehicle history reports and ownership up to speed with modern times. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you'll likely make, and you deserve to have access to the same tools and information the pros use to make the right decisions.

About Andy Jensen

Andy Jensen is a former reporter, now automotive enthusiast writer. He covers industry news, manufacturing, car reviews, race recaps, maintenance how-tos, and upgrades. Andy has contributed content to Jalopnik, Advance Auto Parts, Carvana, and zeroto60times.com. His project car is a modified Scion FR-S, but he’s probably looking at $400 beaters on Marketplace right now.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.