The only way to accurately determine the year model of a vehicle is to decode that vehicle’s original Vehicle Identification Number, known as VIN, for short. Starting in 1980, most production vehicles carried a VIN that was made up of 17 characters – a combination of letters and numbers. For any of those 17-character VINs, it is easy to pick out the single character that denotes the year model of the vehicle.
The VIN is located in multiple places on each vehicle – some easily visible, some purposefully hidden. Above is a photo of a VIN decal that is located in the driver’s door jam. Some VINs are stamped into metal plates that are then attached to the vehicle. Other VINs are stamped into various parts of the vehicle’s structure.
To find the character that denotes the year model of a vehicle, start at the end of the VIN. That’s all the way to the right. Now count left 8 characters. That 8th character can be either a number or a letter, but it will tell you what year the vehicle is. Refer to the chart below to determine what character denotes which year(s).
This only works on vehicles with 17-character VINs.
Note that the letters started repeating in 2010. For example, a 1980 and a 2010 model vehicle will both have an “A” in that 8th spot from the right of the VIN. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as everyone should be able to tell the difference between vehicles 30 years apart.
The letters L, O, Q, U, and Z were not used.
Feel free to download this chart for future reference: