What does a Motorcycle VIN mean?


VIN (or V.I.N) is the acronym for Vehicle Identification Code. A motorcycle VIN is comparable to the VIN on your car. We are required to use them to register and insure our vehicles.

Prior to 1981 vehicle manufacturers were responsible for creating their own systems of individually numbering each machine they produced.  VINs differed in length and meaning.  Some manufacturers included a lot of information. Others, just the bare minimum. Duplicate VINs were possible.

In the 1970's government regulators realized that allowing each individual manufacturer to use their own format for creating unique vehicle identification numbers was creating a paperwork nightmare for the DMV, insurance companies and law enforcement.

The business world was becoming computerized and we needed to create standards for all manufacturers to abide by. These new regulations applied to automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motor-driven cycles (mopeds).

We are only concerning ourselves with motorcycles, ATVs and mopeds here.  Beginning in 1981, all vehicle manufacturers had to conform to the new 17 digit VIN format and the year would no longer appear on the bike tag.

The 10th digit of each vehicle identification number would now represent the model year. Some motorcycle manufacturers began using the new system in 1979.  Most waited until 1981.  This new alpha-numeric numbering system would ensure that no two vehicles produced within thirty years of each other would have the same unique identifying number.

To view the NHTSB (National Highway Traffic Safety Board) VIN numbering requirements chart click on the tiny chart below.

Link to Vin Chart


The values of the 10th digit and their corresponding year appear in the Year Code Chart below.

10th Digit Model Year
Z 1979
A 1980
B 1981
C 1982
D 1983
E 1984
F 1985
G 1986
H 1987
J 1988
K 1989
L 1990
M 1991
N 1992
P 1993
R 1994
S 1995
T 1996
V 1997
W 1998
X 1999
Y 2000
1 2001
2 2002
3 2003
4 2004
5 2005
6 2006
7 2007
8 2008
9 2009
A 2010
B 2011
C 2012
D 2013
E 2014
F 2015
G 2016
H 2017
I 2018
J 2019
K 2020


The cycle of A to Z, 1 to 9 will repeat itself every thirty years.



If you are looking for information about your bike or a bike you may want to purchase, you can check out the Motoverse VIN Decoder page. Choose your bike make {Honda, BMW, Ducati, etc} and enter your VIN for analysis. They can also provide analysis on some car and ATV VINs.

If you want more information about a specific manufacturers motorcycle VIN codes, please check the bike manufacturer tabs in the navigation bar on the left.



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