Buying Cars - The Vehicle Year is?

Perusing used cars I have come to understand there is a build date and a compliance date. Some anecdotal stories indicate car dealers want to sell a vehicle as the one of the compliance date (year) but only pay (trade value) on the build date (year). For completeness there are also upgrades for some vehicles adding yet another dimension to nomenclature, but the following is a like-for-like curiosity.

I found two vehicles that suggest there is some skullduggery in the auto industry. Shock horror who would have guessed?! Is government concerned or even consistent? Vicroads for one is not consistent or does not check and takes whatever the new dealer puts in front of them, no questions asked.

Vehicle 1 has a build date in 2013 and a compliance date a full 13 months later (!) in 2014. Vicroads has it registered as a 2013.

Vehicle 2 (same make and model) has a build date in 2012 and a compliance date 4 months later in 2013, and is also registered as a 2013 by Vicroads.

Regardless that buyers look at condition, maintenance history, and other things that are important to them reality is the model year is objectively and factually a part of the vehicle’s value.

The new car buyer who paid for the 2012 build as if it were a 2013 got done as I see it, with Vicroads being complicit in accepting self policing honesty from the business. From Vehicle 1’s ad that it is a 2014 I suspect that buyer also got done over, or got a great deal, or did not pay attention that the (possibly blank) paperwork they signed showed it as a 2013; it could be the buyer was oblivious or might be trying to do the next buyer.

A case of caveat emptor and an unconcerned bureaucracy or doesn’t it matter in practice?


I always look at build and compliance dates too. I think it matters because vehicles’ fitout & componentry change with time, even within a single model, even within a single year.

when buying a used car, the build date is important because that tells me the fitout, and therefore what I should be pay for that vehicle, rather than what dealers would like which is a price based on the date the car finally received its compliance.



In happy Qld when purchasing new. I could afford to in the past! 2000 - 2014 time frame.

Come Nov, Dec it was common to be offered a new vehicle from stock with the next years compliance plates attached. The dealers promoted it boldly as a selling point as in a few months time your car would not be seen as a year old. Typically the cars were builds from many months earlier.

Or when looking to purchase in Feb, March and at run out specials, vehicles typically with last years build dates, the dealers promoted that the vehicles had been compliance plated for the current year.

I gathered the plates may only need to be afixed when they put a vehicle on the floor or once sold from stock. It would be useful to know what the legal requirement is?

So absolutely the dealers appear to value the compliance plate date above all else when making the sale. Realistically the physical age in use is largely independent of model features and build date. Any other explanation by them for choosing to use the build date for trade value is fanciful. Although as a buyer you can choose either.

The actual model, and any major variations though appear to change middle of the year. This is just one more level of confusion as to why two cars only a few months different in sale date may have very different resale valuations.

Interestingly being selective and patient re vehicle details we have twice had to wait for the boat to arrive. In this instances the build dates were within a month or two of the delivered date.


There is also the issue of say 2019 model/spec vehicles which are built/manufactured in mid to late 2018…but sold in late 2018 as a 2019 model.

One in effect is buying a 2018 built car which is often sold at the same time as the 2018 runnout model.


Exactly, but those vehicles are usually advertised as (eg) MY19’s or ‘Upgraded’ and are differentiated by valuers as well as insurers. The original ‘2009’ edition of my car is a 2.0L but mid-2009 it was replaced by a 1.6THP engine with other running changes including a redesigned dash layout and some comparatively minor bits; the two are differentiated everywhere from Redbook to insurance. The build and compliance and rego years are all 2009.


Great thread - compliance dates can be a real trap, so make sure to check out the build date for those considering buying a new vehicle. The build plate is usually located on the firewall in the engine compartment.


From the Choice report:

Beware the compliance plate trap

The date on a car’s compliance plate might not necessarily be the same as the build plate. And this is especially true for cars manufactured overseas. The compliance plate only tells you when the car was approved for sale in Australia.

For example, a car may have a February 2014 compliance plate, even though it was built in late 2013. This means that it is a 2013 model and its future value will be based on it being a 2013 model rather than a 2014 model.

Insist on being shown the built-date plate. This plate is often attached to the firewall in the engine compartment.

and the obvious corollary is when buying a used car, check to make sure the ‘advertised’ and registered year are in fact the build date!