How to Identify Any Car You See

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Remember those games your parents used to encourage you to play to keep you occupied during long road trips (before the age of screens)? You’d try to find a car for each letter of the alphabet or yell “Bug!” every time you’d see a VW Beetle. Identifying cars is still fun, but knowing the model year just by looking at a car will really impress your friends. Car identification is more than just a parlor trick, though—it has a serious side, too. Whenever you see those highway signs announcing an Amber or Silver Alert, the notification will mention the type of car you should be trying to find. Here’s how to identify any car you see just by looking at it.

Look to the Logo

Many car brands have iconic logos, but in recent years, some of them have started to look pretty similar. You probably can easily recognize Chevy’s bowtie or Ford’s oval (it says “Ford” right on it, for goodness’ sake). But have you mastered the difference between Honda’s H and Hyundai’s H-esque symbol? When you’re stopped behind one or the other at a traffic light, take the time to note the difference. Do the same for Lexus, Infiniti, and Mazda, whose silver symbols also look similar. Make it easier by concentrating on cars that interest you. Specialize in sports cars, diesel engine cars, cars from Germany or Japan, or cars made before 1970, if that’s what you like.

Notice Features That Change Each Year

Chevrolet gave the Corvette Stingray a split rear window design only for the 1963 model year. Wheel designs have been evolving rapidly since the late 19th century. Those kinds of details can help you match a make to its model year. Take note of the grill, the shape of the headlights, the shape of the fenders, and features such as rumble seats or fins on old classics.

Attend Auto Shows and Visit Car Museums

You’ll get a good feel for old and new car styles by attending auto shows. The huge annual shows introduce new models for the upcoming year, while vintage or classic car enthusiasts often host smaller local shows. Walk the exhibition halls, parking lots, or farm fields where these shows take place. Study up on car magazines, and keep current on how this year’s models will differ from earlier models.

Use an App

Yes, there’s an app for car recognition. The Blippar app uses newer-generation visual search and computer vision technology. You simply point your phone’s camera at a parked or slow-moving car, and the app will scan and identify it. The app claims a 97.7% accuracy rate on cars made in the USA after 2000. It can even scan magazine and video images.

Impress your friends or help local authorities by learning how to identify any car you see. It’s a fun hobby and a skill that might even help find a missing person.

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