vin number european car

How Does A European VIN Differ From the US VIN?


A VIN code in a car acts like its ID, so their standards can differ. You might have thought that the U.S. requirements are applied all over the globe, right? However, that’s not so. Even though you won’t see the difference at first sight as both consist of 17 characters, European VIN numbers can differ from those you’ll see on vehicles produced for the US market. We’re here to clear up the smokescreen. Let us explain how a European VIN is different from an American one.

Standards and Regulations 

european vin

Passports are different in countries. So are car VIN codes. We have to learn what regulations make them unique to understand their differences. There are four standards for VIN codes, namely:

  • FMVSS 115, Part 565, valid in the United States and Canada, 
  • ISO 3779,
  • SAE J853 (both are used in Europe),
  • and an ADR 61/2 found in Australia.

Different ISO standards are the principal regulators for European automakers arranging their production models with VINs. Depending on the area, these stipulations can vary. There is an authority similar to the NHTSA in Europe, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), which is in power to impose their unique requirements on car manufacturers. 

Indeed, you’ll likely spot a difference when decoding a European VIN or comparing it to a car allotted with the U.S. one. However, it doesn’t mean you have to be afraid or worried.

European VINs and their Difference from North American Ones

vin number european car

All vehicles assembled in Europe comply with ISO standards. The regulations in Europe aren’t as stringent as in the USA. European VINs don’t follow many additional rules beyond the VDS and even the WMI sections. That results in several differences that don’t impact decoding European VINs.

First off, the VINs of many European cars differ from US ones within the ninth and eleventh symbols. It doesn’t mean you’ll find a gem that falls short of some characters in its VIN string. However, it can happen if you opt for a classic car made in Europe before the VIN standardization.

european vin number

Manufacturers can decide whether the VDS section contains information about the vehicle’s attributes at their discretion. The 10th symbol doesn’t necessarily stand for the model year (don’t mix it up with the manufacture year), while the 11th digit may represent other data a manufacturer considered necessary.

Nevertheless, you can still find many European models with the ninth digit as a checksum or the 10th as an indicator of a model year.

european vin number

Sometimes the first symbol in a European VIN can define the country of the manufacturer’s headquarters.

VIN Decoding with ClearVIN

european vin

Hopefully, this process is more clear now. VINs may be optically read with scanners on newer vehicles or digitally read via OBD-II scanners. There are also smartphone applications that can pass the VIN to websites to decode it.ClearVIN knows everything about them and can provide you with the most accurate information by VIN code about any vehicle that has ever been designated for the U.S. or Canadian market.

vin number european car

Our VIN decoder is totally free. The service will help you obtain the information about a vehicle you need instantly. Besides, the service covers most of the car models and vehicle types available on the market. For more precise vehicle information, get an original Window Sticker for Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Jeep, and more auto brands. 

Bottom Line

We’re here to help you overcome any fears or misconceptions about VINs. Our team goes the extra mile to make your next buying experience frictionless. On our side, we guarantee access to the car history data, including the vehicle title brands, auction sales, recalls, and everything else you may want to learn. Head to our main page and order a car dealer report to be on the safe side! A quick vehicle lookup by VIN can provide information on a car’s accident history, service records, and more. Feel free to reach us at +1 (844) 268-5991 (8:00 AM—3:00 PM EST, Monday to Friday) if you have questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

What The VIN Code Tells You

Vehicle Identification Numbers, or VIN codes, are unique sets of characters given to each on-road vehicle in the United States, European Union and many other countries. The VIN is the…
View Post