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How to find the build date for your car

Updated March 23, 2017

You can learn the model year of your automobile from its vehicle identification number (VIN). Not only does the VIN uniquely identify your car as a theft-deterrent, but it also gives you information about the plant and approximate build date of manufacture, the particular vehicle's engine size and other features.

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  1. Locate your automobile's vehicle identification number by standing outside the driver-side windshield and looking through the lower corner of the windshield on the dashboard. You'll find the 17-character VIN on a little tin plate riveted to the dashboard.

  2. Read the tenth character.

  3. Translate alphabetical characters into model year as follows. A-1980 B-1981 C-1982

  4. Skip I, O, Q, U and Z since the VIN system doesn't use them for model year. They look too much like other letters or numbers.

  5. Start matching numbers to model years starting with 2001. In other words, Y refers to 2000, 1 refers to 2001 and 2 refers to 2002.

  6. Match up letters to years again beginning with 2010. Therefore 9 refers to 2009, A refers to 2010 and B refers to 2011.

  7. Tip

    The chance of the exact year of manufacture equalling the model year is greater than 50 per cent. If the car was made in September or later in the year, the model year and manufacture year will likely differ by 1. In July and August, manufacturers make a mix of the current and the next year's models. Some manufacturers encode the year and month of manufacture in the VIN's last six digits. Fiat is an example. But code conventions for the last six digits vary by manufacturer. Your local dealership may know if the manufacturer gives the manufacture date in the last digits for your car. Use the last two letters of the VIN to determine a Ford's year of month of manufacture. The production date may be listed on the plate or sticker in the driver's doorjamb. This is the Safety Standard Certification Label. It may have a barcode, which will be a giveaway that you've found it. There's a good chance the SSCL will have the manufacture date on it. For example, on a VW, 18-4 as the first three digits of the number under the barcode indicate the fourth day of the 18th week of the calendar year. (See Resources.) Since the last six characters of the VIN (usually) are based on the sequence of the car off the assembly line, a dealership may be able to pin down your car's manufacture date from the VIN alone.

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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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