Friday, December 20, 2019

Identifying What Year Hot Wheels Cars Are By The Package

In our Hot Off The Shelf race, you can enter cars from the current year, the previous year, and towards the end of the year, the following year's cars - which start coming out before the end of the year. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what year car you’re buying.  Here is a guide for cars from the last few years to help you distinguish by the packaging which year a car is. 


2017 Mainline car

In 2017 Mattel made a change to the way they numbered the cars.  In previous years, they had not numbered color variations differently, so the mainline set was out of 250 cars.  In 2017 Mattel began to number the color variations, so the number of mainline cars went up to 365.  This was also the case in 2018, but the 2018 packaging is easily distinguishable from 2017.

2017 Mainline cars were  out of 365


In 2018 the mainline set was also out of 365.  Also in 2018 Mattel was celebrating Hot Wheels 50th anniversary, so the 2018 packaging has a the 50th anniversary logo in the upper right as well as a silhouette of some Hot Wheels Track sets, the most distinguishable are the double loops. 

The font for the name of the casting as well as the numbers changed a bit from 2017 as well.

Notice the font difference from the 2017 car on the left to the 2018 car on the right.


In 2019, Mattel went back to not giving color variations new numbers, so the mainline set is out of 250.  

2019 Mainline cars were out of 250.
The track silhouette from 2018 is still part of the packaging, but there is no 50th anniversary logo.

2018 car on the left with 50th anniversary logo. 2019 car on the right, no 50th anniversary logo.


In 2020, Mattel is still numbering the mainline set out of 250.  The track silhouette is still there. A new logo has been added toward the bottom left of the card.  It says “It’s Not The Same, Without the Flame.” Also the background of the numbers is a dark blue which was not the same in the previous year. 
New logo on 2020 packaging.

Blue background behind numbers on 2020 packaging.
One thing that can be kind of tricky is that often toward the end of the year, the packaging changes to match the next years packaging.  Depending on when your buying cars, one thing you can do is check which case the car is from.  This can be found in a number on the back of the card.  There will be a string of letters and numbers at the very top of the back of the card. The very last letter of the code is the letter of the case.  If it is a letter further along in the alphabet then the car is from the earlier year and if the letter is early in the alphabet it will be a newer year car.

The car on the left is from a "C" case.  The car on the right is from a "Q" case.

 However if it’s toward the end of the newer year or even a later year, that might not be helpful.

Often something will still be different between the two years packaging.  Here is an example.  Toward the end of 2019, packaging of 2019 cars changed to look like the 2020 packaging.  

Both cars are 2019 cars, but the car on the right was released later in the year and has the new 2020 logo.

The “It’s Not The Same, Without the Flame” logo was added.  The Mustang is from early in 2019 “C” case, no “It’s Not the Same” logo.  The cougar is from later in 2019 “Q” case. It has the “It’s Not the Same” logo. It could be hard to tell this 2019 car apart from 2020 cars.  

However, the 2020 cars do have one difference.  The dark background behind the numbers is not present on the 2019 cars, but is on the 2020 cars. 

2019 car is on the left, 2020 car is on the right. Both have new "It's Not The Same..." logo, but only 2020 car has dark blue background behind number in the top right corner.
If you're still having trouble identifying your car, here is a great website that you can look up cars from any years.

Hope that helps.  Remember the Hot Off The Shelf race for the 2020 season allows 2019 cars, 2020 cars, and later in the year when they come out, 2021 cars.  So good luck, happy hunting and we'll see ya in lane 2!


  1. The letter code on the base will tell you the year, M09, indicates early 2019 release. They started using these codes in 2008 starting with letter A. This should help too.

  2. What about prior to 08? Is there a way to date older hotwheels??


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