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How do I tell what year my car was built?

Updated March 23, 2017

You can determine the model year of your car from the vehicle identification number (VIN) on your car. Not only does the VIN serve as a theft deterrent by uniquely identifying the car, but it also provides information about location of manufacture, engine size and other features of your particular automobile.

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  1. Look through the lower driver-side corner of the windshield from the outside to locate the VIN on the dashboard.

  2. Read off the tenth digit from the left.

  3. Interpret alphabetical digits into the model year as follows. A-1980 B-1981 …

  4. Skip I, O, Q, U and Z since they aren’t used to determine model year, since they look like numbers or like V.

  5. Start counting numbers with year 2001. In other words, Y means 2000, 1 means 2001 and 2 means 2002.

  6. Match up letters with years again starting with 2010. So 9 means 2009, A means 2010 and B means 2011.

  7. Tip

    The exact year of manufacture may be one year less than the model year. If it was made September or later in the year, then the model year and manufacture year will differ by 1. Unfortunately, you can’t determine the month of manufacture from the VIN. Some automakers encode the month and year of manufacture in the last six digits of the VIN. Fiat is an example of such an automaker. However, the coding varies between makes. Your local dealership could help you decode it if you find knowing just the model year insufficient.

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About the Author

Paul Dohrman's academic background is in physics and economics. He has professional experience as an educator, mortgage consultant, and casualty actuary. His interests include development economics, technology-based charities, and angel investing.

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