How to Tell the Age of a Vehicle With the Vin Number

Written by ruth eagle
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How to Tell the Age of a Vehicle With the Vin Number
Find out about a car's history. (Red cars image by Catabu from

A vehicle identification number (VIN) can provide you with a history of the car. It is useful to know the age of a car if you are buying or selling a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that they made it a requirement that all road vehicles should have a VIN, beginning in 1981. Locating the VIN and working out the age of the car is simple when you understand how it works.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Find the VIN on the car. According to Kelley Blue Book, this will be situated in several places around the car. The most easily visible will be on the dashboard at the bottom of the windshield and on a sticker on the door frame or pillar of the driver's side.

  2. 2

    Locate the VIN number in other places if you cannot find it on the dashboard or on the sticker. It should be on the actual engine, or the steering column or wheel, on the support bracket of the radiator or inside the inner wheel arch located on the left-hand side of the car.

  3. 3

    Check alternatively to see if the number is on the car's registration documents or inside the guarantee manual or maintenance book.

  4. 4

    Count along the number when you locate it until you reach the tenth number or figure. This is the digit you need to tell the age of the car.

  5. 5

    Calculate the age by using the established formula. Beginning in 1980 with the letter A, every yearly increase takes the next letter of the alphabet; so 1981 is letter B, 1982 is letter C and so on. Do not use the letters I, O, Q, U or Z, as according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration these are not included within the VIN.

  6. 6

    Start your count again at number 1 for 2001, number 2 for 2002 and so forth. From 2010 the alphabetical counting starts another cycle, so 2010 is A, 2011 is B, etc.

  7. 7

    Look up the number or letter from the following information, if this is easier:

    A is 1980; B is 1981; C is 1982; D is 1983; E is 1984; F is 1985; G is 1986; H is 1987; J is 1988; K is 1989; L is 1990; M is 1991; N is 1992; P is 1993; R is 1994; S is 1995; T is 1996; V is 1997; W is 1998; X is 1999; Y is 2000; 1 is 2001; 2 is 2002; 3 is 2003; 4 is 2004; 5 is 2005; 6 is 2006; 7 is 2007; 8 is 2008; 9 is 2009; A is 2010.

  8. 8

    Subtract the year you have identified from the current year to give you the age of the vehicle; for example, 2010 - 1998 = 12. So the age of the vehicle is 12 years.

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