Check Your VIN: Was Your Toyota Really Made in Japan?

Updated on February 15, 2018
2010 Toyota Hybrid Concept Car
2010 Toyota Hybrid Concept Car

How to Tell Where Your Vehicle Was Manufactured

Are you a tried and true Buy American car buyer? Do you believe all the hype that buying American is better for the economy and buying Japanese is causing our economy to fail? Or are you on the other side of the road and you believe imports are a better buy and they last longer?

Whatever your preference, you may be surprised to learn that the Toyota you drove to work today was actually assembled in Northern California and the Volkswagen your neighbor is driving was actually manufactured in Mexico. Here is how to tell where your vehicle was actually manufactured, no matter what the model of the vehicle is.

Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on your car. VIN numbers were first used by Detroit automakers in the 1950’s and are now used by insurance companies and law enforcement agencies to determine a vehicle's true make, body style, and age, and the location of manufacturer. The VIN is usually in the front window, visible from the outside, right in front of the driver’s side.

Look at the first characters of your VIN number. The FIRST character of all VIN numbers identifies the location or country where the vehicle was manufactured, assembled, put together and distributed from.

If the first character of your VIN number is a NUMBER, it means the vehicle was made in the USA, Canada or Mexico:

Number at begining of VIN
Country your car was made in
1, 4, or 5
New Zealand
8 or 9
South America

If your VIN number starts with a LETTER, it means the vehicle was manufactured somewhere overseas, outside the North and South American continents. The most frequently seen letters in the United States are J, K, L, S, W, and Z.

If the vehicle was made in Japan, the first character of the VIN number will be a J; if the vehicle was made in Korea – K; made in China – L; made in England – S; made in Germany – W; made in Italy - Z. Other countries have similar codes and can be researched on line.

Letter at beginning of VIN
Country your car was made in

The SECOND character identifies the company or corporation who produced the vehicle. Each of the 17 characters in a VIN number means something – additional decoding information can be found on line.


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    • authoreshan profile image

      authoreshan 5 years ago from Dhaka

      Informative article...Keep it up

    • Amirkhail profile image

      Amirkhail 8 years ago

      hi, i like the picture and info. Thanks

    • profile image

      joe 8 years ago

      there's also a sticker inside the drivers side door on the frame or door that says where, when, and who manufactured your car. No codes necessary!

    • profile image

      Cynthia 8 years ago

      I really like the car in the picture!

    • profile image

      Jacob 8 years ago

      Boy, was I surprised to discover our Chevrolet van was made in Canada! Cool article!

    • profile image

      Casey 8 years ago

      I love the design of this Toyota! Thanks for the info about Was Your Toyota Really Made in Asia?

    • profile image

      annvans 8 years ago

      Wow, this is very interesting! I did not know this, thanks for the info!