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Decoding a VIN

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Step 6: Determining the Model Year

Since 1980, different countries have used slight variations of model years. Still, there's a generally accepted format that most companies use for the 10th digit. If the car was built between 2001 and 2009, the digits 0-8 will appear here. Our vehicle's 8 tells us that it's a 2008 model-year car.

If the car in question was built between 1980 and 2000, the code will be "A-Y", sequentially excluding the three letters not found in any VIN. For example, a car built in 1994 would have the code "R" and a car from 2000 would use "Y". Starting in 2010, most manufacturers and vehicles reset to the letter "A".

Step 7: Decoding Where it Was Built

The 11th digit is for identifying where the vehicle was made. There's no set standard for this, so you need to consult a list of the company's manufacturing facilities and VIN codes. These are almost all up on Wikipedia. For instance, here's a page with a list of Ford factories. This tells us that the 5 in our VIN matches up to the AutoAlliance plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Step 8: The Sequence of Model Production

The final six digits indicate how far along into a given production run that the vehicle was built but, because some companies make a lot of a certain model, this isn't necessarily a number. In the case of our Mustang, the digit is a number: 113456.

For most car owners, this number isn't very significant. For special models, such as limited edition Corvettes or end-of-production vehicles, this can be the best way to determine if the vehicle is what it purports to be. Most Mustangs are produced on the same assembly line so, in this case, we can't determine anything special about our car.

Step 9: Compare What The Number Shows To Your Vehicle

2008 Ford Mustang BullittWhen we zoom out, it's clear that the car is a 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt. Compare this to what is shown in the VIN number, and it appears that our car checks out.

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