How to Read a Toyota VIN
Vehicle Identification Numbers are serial numbers, each of which is unique to every vehicle. They were introduced in the mid-1950s in the US due to mass production of automobiles. However, it was not standardized and difficult to decode. Toyota introduced its first imported car in the U.S. in the late 1950s. By the early 1980s, the USDOT mandated a 17-digit VIN number in a standardized format in order to decipher specific information and history of every vehicle--Toyota included. By 1996, after safety restraints were mandated on vehicles, the VIN format changed slightly, but still employed the 17-digit coding.
Toyota VIN Format: 1996 to Present
You can gather a lot of information from the first 11 digits from the Toyota VIN. The last six digits present the sequential manufactured number of the vehicle made in the specific year of the Toyota. In other words, if the last six digits of the VIN display the numbers 000100, this shows that Toyota vehicle was the one hundredth vehicle of that model manufactured on the assembly line in that particular year.
The first digit of the VIN displays the country of origin. Because Toyotas have manufacturing plants based worldwide, each country of origin has a specific digit.
The second digit on a Toyota will always be "T" for Toyota. This displays the manufacturer of the vehicle.
The third digit of the VIN displays the vehicle type (for example, sedan, coupe or truck).
The fourth digit displays the body type of the Toyota. For example, two-door with two-wheel drive or five-door lift-back with four-wheel drive.
The fifth digit displays the engine size and displacement.
The sixth digit displays the series of the model Toyota--for example, luxury edition or limited edition.
The seventh digit displays the safety restraint code. This shows how many airbags the vehicle is equipped with and the type of seat belts employed in the model.
The eighth digit displays the model code; Camry, Corolla or Tacoma, or example.
The ninth digit is a unique "check-digit" that is only specific to the year, make and model of the Toyota. This is used only to verify the validity of the VIN number altogether.
The tenth digit displays the year the model was manufactured in. Usually, after August of the year it was manufactured in will display the following year as the date of manufacturing.
The eleventh digit displays the specific plant the Toyota was made in. Again, since the Toyota Motor Corp. has plants around the world, this code will determine the plant in the country of origin that built the vehicle.
Prior to 1996
There were five digits prior to 1996 with a slight variance to the VIN code. The last six were still the sequential manufactured number of the vehicle. Digits one, two, six, nice, ten, and eleven were all the same. However, the third, fourth and fifth digits displayed the category, the engine size and the model or platform of the vehicle in respective order. Because safety restraints were not mandated prior to 1996, the seventh digit displayed the grade of model for the Toyota. And lastly, the eighth digit displayed the body and chassis configuration of the vehicle.
How to Use VINs
You can learn the history of a used Toyota by entering the VIN into a history check system for the vehicle. This will display and documented accidents or damage that has occurred to the vehicle. Understand that accidents or damage that occurred undocumented will not be revealed on any vehicle history reports, whether you have to pay for them or they are free.
Since VINs are specific to every vehicle, they are also used by law enforcement to locate stolen vehicles and properly identify them.