<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1241344019315396&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Dec 14 2020

VIN Decoding 101 Part 4: 25 common VIN terms defined

This blog has been updated since its original publish date in Dec 2011

Like almost every area of expertise, VIN Decoding has unique terminology associated with it.  If you haven't worked with a VIN decoder or VIN data in the past, many of these term's meanings may not be intuitive.  Below are the definitions of 25 common terms that you will likely come across as you work with automotive and VIN data.

VIN Decoding

Process of extracting information from the Vehicle Identification Number. This can refer to only the information that is directly encoded into the VIN or can refer to VIN Explosion.

VIN Pattern

This is the portion of the VIN where information is encoded. It includes positions 1-8, as well as positions 10 and 11 of the VIN. The VIN decoding done with most business applications is based solely off of the VIN Pattern.

VIN Squish

Another word for a VIN Pattern.

VIN Explosion

The process of tying additional information, not directly encoded in the VIN, to the vehicle. This can be done with no other input besides the VIN or can be further enhanced by passing along additional information with the VIN, such as the vehicle's Model Number or Package Code. If you require a detailed return of vehicle data you will need a service that does more than just decode the information encoded in the VIN. DataOne Software's VIN Decoder API Web Service is an example of a VIN explosion service.

VIN Stub

This is a term used to describe a VIN Pattern that has been tied to a vehicle when the vehicle's 17-digit VIN is not known. Commonly obtained by collecting basic vehicle information, and using it to power reverse lookup within a VIN database to identify a VIN pattern that would apply to that vehicle. This "VIN Stub" can then be used to initiate processes, for example, insurance quotes that require a VIN when the vehicle's actual VIN is not available.

World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)

This is an alpha-numeric, three-digit code that occupies positions 1-3 of the VIN. It identifies the manufacturer and country of origin of the vehicle (or trailer). The first digit of the WMI tells you the general geographic area of the manufacturer. The second designates the country of origin. The third digit designates the manufacturer. In addition, from 1981 to 2010, the third digit is used to indicate the category of vehicle.

Check Digit / Checksum

The Check Digit occupies the ninth position of the VIN and is used to verify the validity of an encountered VIN using a calculation called the checksum test. The check digit can be any number between zero and nine, as well as “X” which represents the number ten for calculation purposes. VIN decoders use the check digit, along with validating characters I, O, and Q, to determine if a VIN is valid. While only required in North America, it is utilized extensively abroad.

Vehicle Specifications

This is an often used term in the industry. However, it can refer to more than one type of vehicle data set. Most often, it is used to reference the detailed attributes of a vehicle. This would include the technical specifications, the installed and optional equipment, colors, engine, and transmission details. At times, people will also use the term to refer to the Technical Specifications of the vehicle only. This would include the vehicle's weight, measurements, and dimensions.

Vehicle Make

Refers to the brand the vehicle is sold under. In some cases, this may be different from the manufacturer of the vehicle. For example, some medium-duty trucks branded as Chevrolet are manufactured by Isuzu.

Vehicle Model

Refers to the different types of vehicles (cars, crossovers, SUVs, Trucks, etc) under one brand. For example, Nissan's current passenger/light-duty model lineup consists of the Versa, Sentra, Altima, Maxima, LEAF, Kicks, Rogue, Rogue Sport, Murano, Pathfinder, Armada, Frontier, Titan, Titan XD, 370Z, and GT-R. You may have noticed that the line between model and trim (defined in the next point) may get blurred with some manufacturers, such as Nissan's Rogue Sport and Titan XD. One would expect "Sport" and "XD" to be the trim, however, the trims for these models are actually S/SV/SL and Crew Cab S/Crew Cab SV/Crew Cab Pro-4X/Crew Cab SL. Another example of this would be the Ford Bronco/Bronco Sport.

Vehicle Trim

Vehicle trim (also commonly referred to as "trim level" or "Badging") is a term that is used a bit ambiguously in the automotive data realm. The most common usage, which seems to best reflect OEM and dealer usage, is to indicate a subset of default vehicle configurations below the model level. For example, a Honda Accord is available with several trims (LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, Touring) with an MSRP ranging from $24,270-$36,400. Given the drastic pricing differences and installed feature differences, it's essential for automotive businesses to accurately identify trim.  

Vehicle Style

Uniquely identifies a vehicle style within a single year, make, and model combination (ex. 2020 Acura MDX SH-AWD 4dr SUV w/Technology Package).

Model Number

This number is assigned by the manufacturer and is only available for new inventory. This is different than the VIN number and is typically found in a dealer's DMS. Using the model number as an additional data input will help narrow down VIN decoding results to a single style most of the time. Learn more about how the model number can contribute to a more precise VIN decode.

Vehicle Type

This refers to the general category of the vehicle such as car, truck, van, SUV, and motorcycle.

Body Type

A more detailed description of the vehicle that sits under "vehicle type". For example, a "vehicle type" of "truck" would include "body types" of "pickup", and "Chassis". A "vehicle type" of "car" could have "body types" of "sedan", "hatchback", "coupe", "wagon" and "convertible".

Body Subtype

Adds important descriptive elements not captured by the body type. The cab type of a "pickup" truck would be included within the "body subtype."

Cab Type

Refers to the type of passenger compartment, or cab, on a truck. In light-duty trucks, this most often falls into the three generic categories - regular, extended, and crew. In addition, each manufacturer tends to assign a marketing name to their cab type - SuperCrew, King Cab, Double Cab, and CrewMaxx are some examples of these marketing names. The cab type is captured in the "body subtype" field for light-duty trucks.

Drive Type

Describes the wheels that the engine provides power (FWD, RWD, AWD, 4WD).

Features and Options (Standard and Optional Equipment)

Additional terms used to describe installed features and optional equipment.

Option Code

A unique code used by a vehicle manufacturer to identify a single piece of optional equipment on the vehicle, or a group of items included in an optional package that is used in the vehicle ordering and configuration process.

Package Code

The package code is assigned by the manufacturer. Like model number, package code is usually only available for new inventory, also found in the dealer's DMS. For many OEMs, package codes are not used to uniquely identify vehicle styles. However, for certain OEMs, including package code can make a big difference in determining a single style. This is especially true of Ford and GM, given the complexity of their model lineups. Learn more about how Package codes can contribute to a more precise VIN decode.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The maximum weight a vehicle can carry, which rated by its manufacturer. This rating includes the weight of the vehicle, its passengers, fuel, and cargo. The VIN Pattern will often identify the GVW range (ex. 7001-8000) a light-duty vehicle falls within.

Gross Vehicle Weight Range / Class

The range within which the gross vehicle weight rating falls. Used to classify vehicles (ex. 6001-7000). Check out our vehicle weight classes infographic for a detailed breakdown of which vehicles fall in each weight class.


Tonnage is a value that often follows the badging and marketing descriptions of the vehicle and is historically used for categorization within marketing, government, and risk management sectors. Tonnage may not correspond with the actual payload.

  • 1/4 ton
  • 1/2 ton
  • 3/4 ton
  • 1 ton
  • 1+ ton (vehicles that are heavier than the light-duty segment)
Green Data

Vehicle information related to the environmental impact of the vehicle. Usually includes fuel efficiency as well as emission/pollution ratings. Our Green Data product includes EPA Green Scores and EPA MPG ratings.

If you have some additional VIN or Automotive data terms that you would like to see defined, please add them to the comments section below!

Continue on to our next article VIN Decoding 101 Part 5:  10 Vehicle Details You Should Expect from a VIN Decoder

VIN Decoding 101: Article Index

Add A Comment