VIN number, a complete guide.

VIN – Vehicle Identification Number

Your VIN number is sometimes referred to as your chassis number.

This guide covers the following:


What is a VIN?

The VIN number of your car is a 17 figure code made up of both capital letters and numbers to enable you to identify it.  It serves as  its own personal fingerprint.  Each cars  VIN number is individual and no two VIN numbers are the same.

What purpose does VIN have?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began requiring vehicles to have VINs in 1954 for all vehicles on the road.  The length and format of them varied.  After 1981, all VIN numbers on vehicles became 17 characters long.

The VIN number  gives indications to a vehicle’s background including the manufacturer, year and place it was built.  It can help dealerships when it is necessary to recall certain cars and police when a theft has occurred amongst other things.

What does a VIN look like?

salvage vehicles vin number

What do the 17 characters of a VIN number mean?

The first three characters identify the manufacturer. 

  • First character: Defines the country of manufacture.
  • A,B,C,D,EF,G & H : Africa.
  • J,K,LM,N,P & R  : Asia
  • S,T,U,V,W,X.Y & Z: Europe
  • 1,2,3,4 & 5:  North America   6 & 7:  Oceania  8 & 9: South America
  • Second & third character: Indicates the manufacturer and division.

The next 6 digits indicate decriptive details about the vehicle.

  • Characters 4-8: are details about the vehicle, spec, safety, engine.
  • Character9: This is the manufacterers security code or check digit.  This character shows that the vin number hs been authorised by the manufacturer.

The last 8 digits identify that specific vehicle.

  • Character 10: The year of manufacture.
  • A=1980     B=1981     C=1982     D=1983     E=1984     F=1985     G=1986     H=1987     J=1988     K=1989      L=1990     M=1991     N=1992     P=1993      R=1994     S=1995     T=1996     V=1997     X=1999     Y=2000       1=2001     2=2002     3=2003     4=2004     5=2005     6=2006       7=2007     8=2008     9=2009     A=2010     B=2011     C=2012     D=2013     E=2014     F=2015     G=2016     H=2017     J=2018     K=2019     L=2020     M=2021     N= 2022   P=2023
  • Character 11: The place where the vehicle was manufactured.
  • Characters 12-17: This is the serial number or production number of te vehicle and is totally unique.

Where to find your VIN number

You can locate your vehicle identification number in your vehicle documentation and on the vehicle itself.


Your Vin number should be recorded on any documentation you have for the vehicle:

  • Vehicle Registration document
  • Insurance documents
  • Owner’s manual
  • Repair records and service history.
  • Police reports

On the Vehicle

You can usually find your VIN number in at least two places on your vehicle..

  • Dashboard.  Your VIN should be visible  at the corner of the dashboard where it meets the windscreen.
  • Front of the engine block.This should be easy to spot by popping open the bonnet, and looking at the front of the engine.
  • Front of the car frame, near the container that holds windscreen washer fluid.
  • Rear wheel well. Try looking up, directly above the tyre.
  • Door posts/shuts/jam. Where the latch meets.
  • Underneath the spare tyre.

Why keep a record of your VIN?

It is useful to write down or record your VIN number.  Should it be stolen, it may help in its recovery.

VIN Check

You can check the VIN number of the car against any documentation by using a VIN checker.   This is often free and will give you the year, make, model, style, country of manufacture……………………all of the details from each of the 17 characters.

When you may need a new VIN

If you have a kit car, a rebuilt car, or radically altered vehicle, you may have to apply for a replacement VIN number after the DVLA have assessed it.