How to Decode the VIN on Classic Cars

Written by colleen collins
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How to Decode the VIN on Classic Cars
Various websites and car enthusiast groups can help you decode VINs for classic cars. (yellow classic car image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com)

Since the early 1980s, every vehicle has a unique vehicle identification number (VIN) that identifies the car make, country and year of manufacture, assembly plant and other information. Prior to the early 1980s, VIN formats and meanings varied, depending on the individual manufacturer. You can easily decode both standardised and non-standardised VINs through VIN decode database searches (both free and fee-based), as well as through car enthusiast forums for no charge.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Find the VIN. These numbers are stamped in various places on cars. Common locations are the inside of the driver's door, the driver's side of the dashboard near the windshield, the steering column or the left-inner wheel arch. VINs are also listed in the vehicle's documentation (maintenance book, registration papers). For older cars, the Classic Car Database offers free VIN location lookups. Go to Classiccardatabase.com, enter the year and make in the search boxes in the middle of the web page and press the "Search" Button.

  2. 2

    Decode the VIN. There are online websites that offer free decoding of classic car VINs. For example, go to Decodethis.com, enter the VIN number in the search box in the middle of the web page and press the "DECODE!" button. Or go to Autocheck.com, enter the VIN in the "Get a FREE VIN Check Now!" search box in the top right of the web page and press the "BUY NOW" button (the VIN decoding is free, although you'll be prompted to buy additional vehicle reports).

  3. 3

    Join a car organisation. The Antique Automobile Club of America (Aaca.org) has a free forum where you can ask other car enthusiasts and experts to decode VINs. To register for free, go to forums.aaca.org, and in the "Members" column at the top right of the web page, press the "Register" link and follow the instructions

  4. 4

    Purchase a VIN decode report. Greatoldcars.com offers a VIN decode report for £6.40 that identifies facts, statistics and specifications for your car based on the VIN. To purchase the report, go to Greatoldcars.com, scroll down the page to the "VIN Decode Report only £6.40" section, press the "$9.95 VIN Decode Report" link and follow the instructions.

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