Whether you’re buying a used car or taking your vehicle to the mechanic, knowing the make and model is absolutely essential.
So, where and how can you find this crucial information?
If you have a title or registration for your car, the easiest way to check the make and model is to read one of these documents. But if you don’t have these papers, you can look on your car’s exterior, in your owner’s manual, or use a VIN decoder.
In this article, I will detail five methods you can use to figure out the make and model of a vehicle.
I will also discuss the meaning of “make,” “model,” “trim,” and “body style” and let you know how you can find out your car’s country of origin.
5 Methods to Determine a Car’s Make and Model
In the following sections, I will describe some of the ways you can determine the make and model of a vehicle.
Method One: Check the Title
Your car’s title is the legal document that officially makes you the owner of the vehicle.
And depending on the state you bought your can in, the title will look different and may have different information.
But typically, a car title will have an elaborate border, usually blue, with the name of the state at the top and some details about your car.
In general, you will find the vehicle’s make and model near the top of the document.
Your title will also usually contain the following information:
- VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Year of the vehicle
- Vehicle body (ex. Sport Utility, 4D, etc.)
- Mileage at time of sale
- Issue date
- Seller’s name
Method Two: Check the Registration
Your vehicle registration is a document that confirms that you’ve registered the car with the government, usually your state’s government.
Like the title, your car’s registration will also differ in appearance depending on your state, but you will always be able to find the make and model somewhere on this document.
For most state registrations, this information is in the boxed fields.
Your registration will also list relevant data such as:
- The county of registration
- Your vehicle’s VIN
- Your vehicle’s year
It may also include some tax information as well as the registration’s expiration date.
Method Three: Examine the Car’s Exterior
In many cases, you can find the make and model of your vehicle on the outside of your car.
Usually, both the make and model are on the back of the car.
The manufacturer’s logo is typically in the center of the front of the vehicle.
And by the way, this logo will let you know the make of the car.
Some of the most common logos you’ll find on cars include:
- Audi – Four overlapping circles
- Honda – An “H” inside of a rounded square
- Toyota – A vertical oval with a curved horizontal line through the top and another oval around it
- Volkswagen – A “V” on top of a “W” within a circle
- Mercedes – A three-pointed star inside of a silver circle
- Ram – A drawing of a ram’s head
- Subaru – A large four-point star with five of the same stars beside it
- Chevrolet – A yellowish gold plus sign
You should keep in mind, though, that while just about every car has the make on its exterior, you won’t always find the model name there as well.
Method Four: Read the Owner’s Manual
Practically every new vehicle you buy should come with an owner’s manual.
Even most used cars have the owner’s manual.
You will typically find the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment.
The make and model of the vehicle are almost always on the front cover of the owner’s manual.
If they aren’t, you will find this information somewhere in the first couple of pages.
Method Five: Look up the VIN
Your car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a set of 17 numbers and letters specific to your vehicle, meaning no two cars have identical VINs.
And these strings of characters allow you to figure out the make and model of your vehicle as well as other important information.
To find your car’s VIN, you can look at the dashboard on the driver’s side, your registration or title, or your driver’s side door.
The easiest way to determine the make and model of your car through the VIN is to use a website such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) VIN decoder.
You should keep in mind, though, that if your vehicle was made before 1981, the VIN might have less than 17 digits, which can make it challenging to look up on a decoder website.
What Does “Make” Mean on a Car?
If you’re trying to figure out the make of your vehicle, knowing the definition of the word can be helpful.
You see, a car’s make is synonymous with its brand.
For example, some popular car makes include:
What Does “Model” Mean on a Car?
A car model is a specific line of vehicles made by an auto brand.
For example, one of Ford’s top-rated models is the F-Series, which includes trucks such as the F-150 and F-250.
Some other examples of common car models include:
- Honda’s Accord
- Toyota’s Camry
- Nissan’s Altima
- Chevrolet’s Silverado
- Hyundai’s Sonata
- Subaru’s Outback
- Jeep’s Wrangler
(The above model names are in bold to distinguish them from the make.)
What Does “Trim” Mean on a Car?
Although most people will only want to know the make and model of a vehicle, there may be some circumstances where they also need to know the trim.
Thus, you should be aware that a vehicle’s trim is the specific version of its model.
For instance, the Honda Accord has five different trims: EX-L, LX, Sport, Sport SE, and Touring.
One of the main reasons it’s important to know the trim is that different trims usually have different values.
For example, the Honda Accord Touring is worth about $10,000 more than the LX.
Different trims may also have different engines and other features that a mechanic needs to know about before they can work on the car.
What Does “Body Style” Mean on a Car?
A car’s body style refers to the shape of the vehicle.
Some of the most common body styles for cars include:
- Four-door sedan
- Station wagon
- Sport utility vehicle (SUV)
- Two-door coupe
Trucks, on the other hand, typically come in three styles: regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab.
How Can I Find Out Where My Car Was Built?
The easiest way to find out where your car was built is to look at the VIN.
The first character of your VIN is the country code, which tells you your car’s country of origin.
Some of the most common country codes you will see are:
- J – Japan
- L – China
- W – Germany
- 1,4, or 5 – United States
- 2 – Canada
- 6 – Australia
- 7 – New Zealand
The easiest way to determine your car’s make and model is to check the title or registration.
However, if you don’t have these documents, you can examine the outside of the car, check the owner’s manual, or use a VIN decoder.
Table of Contents
- 5 Methods to Determine a Car’s Make and Model
- What Does “Make” Mean on a Car?
- What Does “Model” Mean on a Car?
- What Does “Trim” Mean on a Car?
- What Does “Body Style” Mean on a Car?
- How Can I Find Out Where My Car Was Built?