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How to properly check the year of your vehicle

I work for Carquest, and too often many customers come in to buy parts, then come back to return them because they claim they are the wrong parts. I tell them "I looked up the make/model/year you told me". So we go outside to double check and lo-and-behold, THEY GAVE ME THE WRONG YEAR TO BEGIN WITH!!!!!!!!!!

I'm sad to say that some shops we deliver to do not properly check the year of the vehicle as well, or just take for granted everything the customer tells them.
"Oh I think it's a 2005"

SO, I would like to try to clear this up. To get everyone on the same page with how to properly check the year of your vehicle. It's a very simple task that can save A LOT of headaches. Trust me.

Exhibit A: My 2004 Impreza WRX wagon
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Normally when people want to check the year of their car, they immediately go check the production date in the door jam. THIS IS INCORRECT. DO NOT DO THIS. You may get away with it once or twice, but it's a bad habit to get into.

I'll show you why.

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Here is the door jam on my WRX. The production date in the upper right hand corner says 04/03. So April of 2003. Now, initially, you'd be tempted to say "oh it's a 2003, because it wasn't made late enough in the year to be a 2004" WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.

The production date is useful for some things, but NOT to verify the year.

Here's an under hood shot:
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Notice the red circle. This is the emissions label. It's got some engine info on it, maybe a vacuum diagram, etc. But what they all have in common is the short paragraph on the bottom:
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"This vehicle conforms to U.S. EPA tier 2 regulation applicable to gasoline-fueled 2004 model year....."

WAIT WAAAAAAAAAAAAT? The door jam says 04/03?????

Now, this variance of production date to actual model year isn't uncommon, some are more, some are less.

The number you want to trust is the one on the Emissions label under the hood, and NOT the production date.

Knowing DSMers, the hood has possibly been stripped, etc. So there is no more emissions sticker. Well you're in luck. The best way to verify the year is by the VIN number. Look at the 10th digit from the left. And reference this chart:
VIN-to-Year Chart

I hope this has helped clear up any discrepancies people have with what model year vehicle they have and how to check it. Thanks for reading!
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