VIN Decoding for your Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and VW

Posted Friday, Sep 14, 2018

BMW VIN plate

What does that long number mean to me?

Buying a used car from someone else can sometimes be frustrating, especially when you are interested in a rare or heavily-optioned vehicle. The simple fact is that vehicle build details and options are not always easily recognized. You could very well need to order certain replacements to repair the car in the future, but you need to know the right stuff to find so the car maintains its originality to a flawless execution.

As an example, let's look at your paint code. If you need to have any sort of paintwork performed on the car, the first bit of information you will need is the factory paint code. This is usually a three to five digit code number and the individual name of that specific paint. Without proper vehicle information, this simple task turns into a monumental problem. I have put together a list of websites that I reference in order to find information on cars that we have
bought ourselves. Not all of these resources provide every answer, though, so a host of references are needed to cover all the bases.

Finding information through your VIN can be a scavenger hunt in some cases, as certain manufacturers are better than others at providing data on their codes. Likewise, some thirdparty websites are better than others at the same, so sometimes all your answers are not in one place. Ultimately the vehicle manufacturers have all the information, but most are not forthright with that data for proprietary reasons. I will update links and information as I add more resources to help you fully decode your car, or the potential car you hope to add to your stable.

Audi: This source is my preferred option for decoding an Audi VIN, but it isn't a one-stop-shop. Unfortunately, this VIN decoder doesn't work on ROW or Euro-Spec cars. When I find one that does, I will make that information available and add that resource to this index. Another source is Audi themselves. Internet rumor has said that if you email Audi of America they will send you all the information on your car. At this time, we have not found the email
address to pursue this claim or experimented to see if Audi will perform this service. With any luck, this will be one internet rumor that pans out for the Audi community. This website works for ROW or Euro-Spec Audi VINs, but information is extremely limited. In my research online, Audi VIN decoder information is extremely limited and your best bet may be to email Audi of America for complete information on your vehicle if you can find that specific address. When I confirm this address, I will certainly include it here.

BMW: This site is one of the best choices compared to other links I have attempted to use. Fortunately, BMW VINs have interior and exterior paint information available from the VIN decoders, for the most part. The downside is, of course, that ROW or Euro-Spec VINs do not work on that URL. This link has provided some success to decode ROW or Euro-Spec VIN's, but information is extremely limited. The data that is returned is usually information you already possess. For ROW or Euro-Spec vehicles, contacting the BMW archives in Munich is an excellent option, but they only operate part of the year and are not the fastest alternative. The fastest option in my experience is R3Vlimited, a forum centered around BMW enthusiasts. R3v has members all over the world who will gladly run VINs from Euro-Spec cars through Canadian and European dealerships, which will usually return you the full V-Spec on your particular European Market BMW.

Mercedes Benz: For your Mercedes Benz I prefer to use Datamb as it works well on USDM cars and ROW / Euro-Spec VINs as well. Mercedes-Benz VINs appear to carry color codes, which is one of the most common questions Mercedes owners want to learn from their VIN. Good on you, Mercedes-Benz.

Porsche: Porsche enthusiasts have done well to populate this database. Data here is as complete as I have seen it and the website is very fast responding. ROW / Euro-Spec VIN's work here as
well, which makes it a great option for gray market imports and other external market vehicles. Porsche is interesting because for about $100 you can submit a PDF that will give you an official letter from Porsche that displays all the information Porsche has on your vehicle. The newer the vehicle, the better and more accurate the data is. While $100 might be a little steep, it is a professional solution and something that I wish all manufacturers would do, as it can work to your benefit as an owner or seller of your Porsche. This document is most helpful when you go to sell your classic or even 10-year-old Porsche, and don't have the window sticker anymore.

Another option is from SunCoastParts, who offers a VIN decoding service for $10 as well as replication of window stickers for $12. I have not seen whether this source offers more detail than the other online sources, but replicating the window sticker is definitely a worthwhile investment. for the Porsche VIN Decoder and for the window sticker.

Volkswagen: From all the German marques, VW seems to have the least amount of available links and the least amount of data shown from those links. If we come across better URL's with more data, I
will be sure to update this post.

Porsche letter of authenticity
Example of a mid 80's Porsche letter of authenticity

1970 Porsche Letter of Authenticity
Example of a 70's Porsche letter of authenticity

2002 Porsche letter of authenticity
Example of a 2000s Porsche letter of authenticity