VIN Build Sheets: What They Are and Why You Might Want One

Detailed specifications documents available online show what features came on your car.

1968 Ford Mustang VIN plateFord

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While it’s not entirely true that no two cars are exactly the same, car manufacturers build a wide variety of configurations. You’ll find different paint colors, upholstery choices, wheel designs, and myriad other options that set them apart.

A VIN (vehicle identification number) build sheet—or a VIN decoder—provides valuable data on how the manufacturer originally built your car. Here’s how to get one for certain models.

What is a VIN Build Sheet?

A build sheet tells you which options the automaker installed on your car. When shopping for a new car, you’ll have the luxury of a federally mandated window sticker detailing the optional extras installed at the factory and port. When that car is ready for its second owner, that sticker might be gone, making it harder for a shopper to compare used models. Features like active safety equipment may be challenging to spot at a glance.

While a build sheet may not be as user-friendly as a window sticker, it gives a rundown of features and the original paint and upholstery colors. A keen VIN build sheet reader can determine if a car has been modified with wheels from a different trim level or other minor details.

A home mechanic can also find the build sheet specifications helpful in maintenance or repairs. The build sheet may reveal the presence of a limited-slip differential, for example, which might need a special lubricant. If nothing else, a build sheet can provide exciting tidbits, such as the date when the factory built your car.

How to Find a VIN Build Sheet

Not every car manufacturer makes tracking down a build sheet easy. We’ve rounded up some more popular brands offering online build sheets. You’ll want to have your VIN handy.

Some caveats: build sheets are generally only available for recent models. The links below probably won’t work for you if you’re researching a classic vehicle or need to email/call a customer service representative for access. Build sheets provided by third-party services may contain discrepancies and errors, so read them with a grain of salt.

Here are a few readily available VIN build sheets:

  • BMW VIN Decoder: BMW doesn’t provide its own online VIN build sheet, but an independent site may offer some information. You may need a German-to-English translator.
  • Ford VIN Build Sheet: Ford offers a few options to request technical information. For 1991 and newer models, the automaker says to call its customer service number. The automaker will email a “technical data sheet” containing some features. You can obtain a more comprehensive build sheet for 1967 through 2017 models for $20 to $55 from Marti Auto Works, a Ford licensee. For 2007 and newer models, Ford will reprint a copy of the original window sticker for $50.
  • Jeep VIN Build Sheet: Paste your Jeep VIN at the end of this link. Build sheets for Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and select Plymouth and Fiat models are accessible the same way.
  • Lexus VIN Build Sheet: Lexus offers a build sheet on its owners site, though you’ll have to register for an account first.
  • Mercedes-Benz VIN Decoder: This site, similar to the BMW VIN decoder listed above, can provide details about Mercedes-Benz and Smart models.
  • Toyota VIN Build Sheet: The owners section of Toyota’s website has an easy-to-use form called Vehicle Specification that lists basic specifications and any optional equipment.
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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz has had cars in his blood ever since he gnawed the paint off of a diecast model as a toddler. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he earned a journalism degree, worked in public relations for two manufacturers, and served as an editor for a luxury-lifestyle print publication and several well-known automotive websites. In his free time, Andrew loves exploring the Rocky Mountains' best back roads—when he’s not browsing ads for his next car purchase.