Can You Find a Car’s Paint Color Code Using the VIN? [How-to]

When I started restoring my 64 Mercury Comet, I wanted a specific color of metallic red that I’d had on another vehicle. I couldn’t just tell the guy behind the paint counter that I wanted “metallic red” because who knows what I’d have gotten.

Instead, I used the paint code from the vehicle to order a couple of gallons of the exact red I wanted.

What’s a paint code?

Your car’s paint code is unique, consisting of three to six characters (letters and numbers); it’s necessary to know it for a few reasons.

If you have minor scratches on your vehicle and you’re trying to fix them, you must know the exact color. Or, if you have to replace a panel, you will need to color code so you can match the existing paint. Or, like my example above, if you want to know the specific color of a car, you can get everything you need from the paint code.

To find your car color code, you have a few options. Keep reading to find a car paint code with a VIN number.

Vehicle Identification Number VIN code

What is the VIN Number?

Okay, let me get this out of the way immediately – I know that saying “VIN number” is redundant. The “N” in VIN literally stands for “number.” But people always say it that way, so I had to include it for SEO. With that out of the way, let me tell you how to find your paint code using the VIN.

After manufacturing a car, each vehicle receives a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), a unique code consisting of 17 characters of various letters and numbers.

You can read the number in sections; each section provides a unique piece of information concerning the vehicle. The numbers will reflect the factory, country, and year it was manufactured. Additionally, it contains the make and model of the car as well as the serial number. The manufacturer will always configure the number in one single line.

How To Find Color in VIN Number?

The short answer is that the VIN doesn’t indicate the color code used on a vehicle. In the best case, the VIN will help you identify other meaningful information so you can track down the color used on that car. From there, you can get the paint code.

Beyond the VIN, there’s usually a paint code somewhere on the vehicle (if it’s newer than the mid-1980s). The paint code can be found on the build sticker. The specific data you will be looking for here is the ‘color code’ or ‘paint code.’ Typically, this code consists of three or four letters indicating precisely what shade of paint you have on your vehicle.

The color is a sticker or plate, similar to the VIN, and often it’s directly next to VIN or in a common place on the vehicle. A great place to begin looking for the color code is along the frame or the door jamb.

However, be mindful that different manufacturers will place it on other parts of the car. Therefore, if you want to know what exact shade of color your vehicle has, you’ll have to search for the paint code to ascertain this information.

On the other hand, a VIN isn’t completely useless in this regard; it can tell you the variation in the hue. However, since the paint can vary tremendously from year to year and between models—it’s not exactly accurate.

There are subtle variations that can arise from one year to the next. For example, a blue on one model may not be as dark as the following year’s model of the same car. For this reason, it’s necessary to have both the VIN and the paint code.

paint matching scanner code reader

Ways To Find the Code Using the VIN

If you want to know how to find the color of your car with the VIN number, start by understanding which section of the VIN number is helpful in conjunction with other resources.

The VIN number doesn’t directly provide the paint code for your vehicle, but you can use it to get the paint code from other platforms online.

With advanced technologies, car owners can use various websites to help learn certain bits of information about their vehicle based on the codes provided on the VIN sticker and other stickers on the automobile.

Aside from using the VIN number online, you could also call the car seller or the dealership and ask them to provide you with the paint code. If you have the vehicle paperwork, including the title, you can find the seller’s information and ask them to tell you the paint code.

If it’s a dealership that you’re contacting directly, they’ll have this information readily available in their records. You have to tell them the VIN number because it’s the unique identification for your car specifically.

If you’re contacting a seller, they should be able to give you the details of where they originally purchased the car.

Finally, one of the ways you can get the color code for a car is to use a paint matching scanner. Most scanners used by professional collision repair shops will be very costly. But you can find consumer-grade scanners online for DIY auto repairs. (like this one we found on Amazon)

While this won’t give you the exact color code used on the car, it will get you close to the color that’s currently on the car (due to fading or wear).

Where is the Paint Code on Most Cars?

What if the paint code isn’t right next to the VIN? Where’s the best place to find the paint code on any car?

Find the automobile information sticker inside your vehicle. Most vehicles feature a sticker that discloses the identifying information concerning the car, and it’s been this way since the 1980s.

Included on the sticker is a barcode that lists the vehicle’s make, the country, and the manufacturing date. You can search for the sticker or check out your car manual to find the sticker’s placement. However, if you choose the former, here are some places to look.

  • On the inside of the car door
  • On the inside of the door jamb
  • Under the hood near the front of the engine.
  • On the interior dash of the driver’s side
  • In the rear wheel well, right above the tire

Two types of paint codes will be listed — one code is for the interior color or cabin, and the other is for the exterior paint. One code may be labeled “trim” and the other “paint.” Write down the paint code, call your dealer’s service department, and ask them to decode the number for you.

Why Would You Need To Find the Paint Code on a Car?

So, what purpose does it serve once you learn how to find a car’s color code with a VIN number?

Perhaps you’ve scratched the original paint job and need an exact spray paint to match the paintwork, or maybe you want to replace a component. You must know the precise paint color, and the code will give you this information.

It’s easy to think that two paint colors look the same. However, car manufacturers make many different exterior paint colors, and they can all vary in shade from year to year. Therefore, you have to get the code and make sure it’s correct to ensure you have the right color.

Vehicle diagnostic machine scan VIN number

What To Do With the Paint Code Once You Have It?

Once you figure out how to find the car paint color with a VIN number, what do you do with it?

Well, if you’re ordering paint, you can use the paint color code when asked for the exact color you need, or you can provide it directly to the mechanic performing the touch-up on your vehicle. You may also enter it into a database if you’re using it to execute processes online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the responses to the most commonly asked questions regarding how to find a car paint code with VIN number:

What does a paint code look like?

The paint code consists of three to four letters or numbers printed on a metal plate, about the size of a wallet. It may also be on a sticker. Here are examples of the format.

  • 2AB
  • 1TG
  • 3T3
  • KTV
  • 41C
  • KTV
  • 165R

What is the most complex color to match on a car?

It’s essential to get the exact paint code when dealing with intrinsically hard-to-match colors. For example, red is one of the hardest colors to match and take care of afterward. You have to clean, buff, wax, and be extra careful because it shows dents, scratches, dirt, mud, and more easily.

There are so many shades of red that you have to have the paint code to get the perfect shade for your vehicle, which you’ll likely need if you want to restore it because of wear and tear.

Can the VIN number alone help me get the right paint match?

The VIN number alone can help you find the paint color code, but it won’t be because the code is in the VIN number. It’ll be because you can use the VIN number online or with a dealer to determine the color code.

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