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How to decode VIN

Updated on February 23, 2011

VIN stand for Vehicle Identification Number. It is unique number that identify each car. It was introduced in 1980 and contain 17 characters - letters and digits with exclusion of I,O and Q.

In this hub I will show how to decode Volkswagen cars VIN.

I will use this (random) VIN as an example : WVW ZZZ 16 Z D W 211800

First three letters (WVW in example) describe World Manufacturer Identifier. It is assigned to manufacturer and country so in our example W stands for Germany and VW stands for Volkswagen. Tabel 1 shows how they are assigned :

Country codes used in VIN
Country codes used in VIN

Next six letters (ZZZ 16 Z) stands for Vehicle Descriptor Section. They are used for identify purpose and can contain information about car details. Also last letter (Z) is used in North America as control digit.

Last seven letters and digits is used to describe details of specific specimen. They contain information about :

-optional equipment
-drive type etc.

Last five characters are always digits. Character on tenth position describe year of production. Year 1980 is ‘A’ and year 2000 is ‘Y’. Years 2001-2009 are describes by letters 1-9. In year description letters I,O,Q,U,Z and 0 are not used. Table 2 shows how years are assigned to digits :

Years in VIN code
Years in VIN code

Ok lets go to our example. We have :

WVW - this is Volkswagen manufactured in Germany
ZZZ - in this case they are unimportant
16 - describe model, here VW Golf / Jetta MK1 1974-83
Z-control digit, not used in Europe
D - year of production, D stands for 1983
W - id of factory which made this car, here Wolfsburg in Germany
211800 - description of additional characteristic of this car

And this is it :). Online you can find a lot of VIN decoders but it is always good to know how software works.


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      Jason 5 years ago

      Yes, these can be confusing so I just pull up vehicle report, I run a vin check myself no matter what the owner says. it's just $10 at

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      sep 5 years ago

      Very useful