Determine a Car’s Age

These days, the car company and its dealer network will make no secret of selling ‘old-plated’ cars. They’ll also run expensive advertising campaigns to market ‘last year’s cars to consumers.

But as much as plate clearances have become a big business opportunity and a boon for buyers, it begs a couple of questions.

Are you, for example, purchasing an ‘old’ car rather than a new one? And how will purchasing an old-plate car affect its resale value when the time comes to sell or trade-in?

To answer these, consider how we determine the age of a car.

We have been in the automotive industry since 1984, ranging from apprentice to master technician, workshop foreman, controller, service advisor and service manager, in numerous premium vehicle businesses. We have built a level of loyalty that in the 21st Century is vital. After all, customer service and care is a point of difference.

We hope we are able to help you out with your needs. Our business is also known as Prepurchase Check.

Build Plate

The build plate denotes the end of the car’s production. The build plate is traditionally located somewhere in the engine bay and is riveted to a structural member of the body. It could be the firewall, but it could also be one of the strut towers or the leading edge of the bonnet.

In recent years, the build plate has become more commonly a powder-coated label bonded to the car’s body. It usually conveys information specific to the vehicle, such as the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, which is stamped into the plate.

The VIN is a 17-character identifier that contains a wealth of data. Other information on the plate that is not specific to the vehicle may appear, such as engine type, transmission type, trim code, option code, and colour code.

The build plate on your car has a date on it (month and year). This is the ‘year’ of the vehicle that a valuer will use to determine market value at the time of trade-in. If the build date shows that the car was built in November 2017, it will be valued as a 2017 model – even if you bought it in February 2018 and did not register it until that month.

Compliance Plate

After the car is unloaded from a ship in an Australian port, it is placed in bond and a compliance plate is installed. The compliance plate, like the build plate, has traditionally been located in the engine bay, but it can also be located on a strong structural member, such as a B-pillar, and hidden by the driver’s door when closed.

The compliance plate, like the build plate, was once an aluminium plate riveted to the car, but these days it’s just as likely to be a powder-coated label bonded to the car.

The compliance plate, as the name implies, serves as proof that the vehicle complies with Australian Design Rules (ADRs) and is eligible for registration on Australian roads. It is required by law to include an approval number from the regulatory body, the federal Department of Infrastructure, which is in charge of transport in Australia.

The compliance plate must also include the category (usually MA for light vehicles), the manufacturer’s name, model line, series/generation, and VIN. GVM (gross vehicle mass in kilograms) and seating capacity are two other data points on the compliance plate.


The Motor Vehicle Standards Act of 1989 is repealed on July 1, 2021, and the Road Vehicles Standards Act of 2018 takes its place. The RVS is described as “the biggest legislative overhaul of road vehicle regulation in over 30 years” by the Department of Infrastructure, the federal government department in charge of transport in Australia.

Furthermore, the RVS framework “establishes nationally consistent standards appropriate for the twenty-first century,” according to the department.

One of the most notable features of RVS is the inclusion of a ‘Register of Approved Vehicles’ (RAV), which is a “publicly searchable database of vehicles that have met the requirements of the RVS legislation and been approved for sale in the Australian market.”

This change in the way cars are approved for the local market eliminates the need for physical compliance plates for vehicles listed on the RAV.

The Year of The First Registration

A full year may have passed by the time a car rolls off the assembly line and has registration plates affixed to it.

Shipping a car, even from a country close to Australia (in the Asia-Pacific region), could take up to a month. If it’s coming from North America or Europe, it could take six weeks or more – and that could be extended if someone parks a container ship at an angle across the Suez Canal.

It takes some time for the car to be delivered from the docks to a bond store. If it arrives near the end of the year, it will be delayed during the Christmas/New Year holiday season.

Following that, it must go through the compliance process. Every step of that process can add weeks or months to the process – for example, if a global pandemic slows supply – and then the vehicle must be transported to a retailer, where it must be prepared for sale.

It could remain in dealer inventory for months longer, waiting for the ideal buyer who wants that exact combination of colour, trim materials, and options.

It may take another week for the vehicle to be registered and delivered after the buyer signs the contract of sale and makes a deposit.

If you buy up until around April or May of one year, there’s a good chance the car you’re buying was built the previous year.

Why Are Model Years, and Not Calendar Years?

In the northern hemisphere, it has long been customary to launch a new model year in the fourth quarter of the previous year. As a result, a 2020 model could be introduced in October or November of 2019.

There are numerous reasons given for this, some of which sound like urban legends. One reason for this is that the introduction of new model years occurs near the end of the third quarter, which coincides with the traditional dates for major auto shows in Frankfurt and Paris.

However, that alone does not explain it. It is not uncommon in the United States for some new model years to be introduced as much as nine months before the start of the respective calendar year.

Furthermore, some manufacturers are introducing running changes to their model lines with such frequency that model years must be divided into quarters.

At the time of publication, Ford was taking orders for the 2021.75 model year Ranger, while the 2021.25 model year was still on the market and being delivered to customers.

There is often no plate or documentation to show the buyer which model year of vehicle they are purchasing, but trainspotters will be able to identify them by minor styling details or minor specification changes.

In short, how a manufacturer chooses to label its vehicle in terms of model years can be very misleading and is frequently irrelevant to whether the car is worth more for being a later model year unless the specification is significantly different – as in the case of a BMW ‘Life Cycle Impulse’ (LCI) update.

Generation Codes

Almost everyone who is familiar with the local automotive industry can envision an FJ Holden. The year 1953 comes to mind right away. Perhaps the XD Falcon will bring back memories of 1979 for Ford fans.

Local manufacturers used codes rather than model years to distinguish new designs or facelifts from previous models back in the day.

However, the Europeans distinguish different generations of model families with Baumeister codes for Mercedes-Benz – W126, W140, W220, and so on for S-Class – and the Entwicklungsnummer (development number) for BMW – E34, E39, E60, and so on for 5 Series.

Among Asian brands, Toyota is particularly well known for its katashiki (model) codes – ACV30 for Camry, TA22 for Celica, UZJ200 for LandCruiser, and so on.

Outside of the manufacturer’s own R&D facilities, these codes are essentially just shorthand expressions for the benefit of enthusiasts.

A ‘VF II’ Commodore is vastly different from a ‘ZB’ Commodore.

What will a car with an old license plate cost me when I trade it in?

So you’ve discovered that your vehicle isn’t a 2018 model after all. You purchased it that year, but the compliance plate clearly shows that it was not only manufactured the previous year but was also present in this country before the end of 2017.

When it comes time to trade in your car for a new one, you will pay for it.

Private buyers aren’t going to care that your car was only registered and driven on local roads for the first time in 2018. It’s plated 2017, so they’ll use that as a bargaining chip to knock a couple of hundred dollars off the price.

That is, of course, the issue to consider. When selling a car, the price difference between a car built one year and a car first registered the following year may not have much bearing on the final transaction price you can negotiate with the dealer or a private buyer.

In any case, if you purchased the car during a plated clearance, you likely saved more on the purchase price than you are losing on the trade-in value.

So don’t worry about it, especially if you intend to keep the car for a long time. By the car’s tenth birthday, any difference in resale value between the year of manufacture and the first year of registration will most likely be insignificant.

And, in the end, the car’s condition will influence resale just as much as its plated year… if not more.

If your old-plated car has travelled a few kilometres, has been serviced on a regular basis, and is in excellent condition, its ‘birth’ year preceding its year of first registration will have little, if any, impact on its value to a dealer or buyer.

In reality, an older car in excellent condition and very “authentic” will be worth more than a newer car of the same specification if the latter has had a rougher life.

If you are looking for the best pre-purchase car inspector in Melbourne, do not hesitate to contact German Precision or Prepurchase Check today!


What Is A Pre-purchase Car Inspection And Why You Need One?

Finding the used car that’s right for you takes time. And when you finally find ‘the one,’ it can be tempting to rush through the process to get into the driver’s seat. Before you fully commit, there’s one more important step to take—and that’s a pre-purchase inspection (PPI). So what is a pre-purchase car inspection and why do you need one?

Honest and Professional Pre-purchase Car Inspection in Melbourne, VIC

We have been in the automotive industry since 1984, ranging from apprentice, through to master technician, workshop foreman, controller, service advisor and service manager, in numerous premium vehicle businesses. We have built a level of loyalty that in the 21st Century is vital. After all, customer service and care is a point of difference.
We hope we are able to help you out with your needs. Our business is also known as Prepurchase Check.

No piece of car-buying advice is more often ignored than this: Have a mechanic inspect a used car before you buy it. Why do buyers plunk down thousands of dollars on a car with little more than an around-the-block test-drive and a glance under the hood? Three reasons often deter car buyers from taking this vital step:

• Some consumers don’t know that good used-car inspections are readily available
• Many car buyers don’t want to pay the extra money for an inspection
• Some people anticipate a hassle getting a dealer or private party to agree to an inspection.

Most sellers will let you take the car for an inspection or agree to have a mobile inspection performed at their home or place of business. If the seller hesitates, you might wonder what they’re hiding and consider walking away from the deal. It can be an obvious red flag, no?

What Is A Pre-purchase Car Inspection?

A PPI (Pre-purchase Inspection) is a vehicle inspection performed by a licensed mechanic or a qualified inspector who will give the vehicle a thorough inspection to determine its cosmetic, mechanical and safety condition. The inspector will pinpoint any existing conditions and highlight potential issues that could arise in the future and will investigate to make sure any previous damage has been properly repaired.

By learning more about what’s happening under the hood, you could end up more confident that you’re making a great purchase, decide that it’s not the right ride for you, or uncover some details to leverage in your price negotiations.

How Much Does A Pre-purchase Car Inspection Cost?

Typically, a pre-purchase car inspection may cost you around $200. At German Precision, the vehicle inspections start at only $245 (most cars are $245-$325) and others may range up to $395 or more if more specialised. Customers will always receive an accurate quote based on the type of car or location or other considerations.

Certain models/vehicles will attract a premium rate, due to further attention needed and inspection time.

Once we have assessed the vehicle, you will be in a better position to decide whether it is worth purchasing.

Why You Need To Get A Pre-purchase Car Inspection

Peace of mind is the first and foremost reason for getting a mechanical vehicle inspection. When you’re spending thousands on an asset, you should feel confident you’re not getting a lemon that may end up costing you down the track in repairs. And you can rest assured that any safety issues with the vehicle will be brought to your attention. It means you won’t inadvertently end up driving around in a death trap!

How Vital Is The Pre-purchase Inspection?

Experts agree that a qualified specialist should inspect used cars before the final negotiation for purchase. The ordinary car buyer, even if mechanically savvy, really can’t do it justice. A thorough, professional inspection can tell you whether you’re about to buy a peach or a lemon.

Smart sellers, too, know the value of a presale inspection. Having the car thoroughly scrutinized by a reliable third party before listing it provides an additional selling point in the form of a written report. While this is useful information and lends credibility to the seller, you should still insist on getting your own independent inspection before making the purchase.

I’ve Had The Vehicle Inspection. Now What?

From the vehicle inspection and the vehicle history report, it’s now time to decide whether to buy the car.

If you feel like it’s the right vehicle for you, go back to the seller to negotiate the price.

If you’re buying from a dealership they’ll take care of the rest for you, so you can avoid making mistakes when buying a used car.

And if you’re buying privately you’ll have to check into the rules and regulations around finalising a private used car sale in your area.

Pre-purchase Car Inspection

As much as some of us think we’re backyard mechanics, you can’t go past actually getting a used car checked out by a professional to determine whether it is mechanically sound. There’s nothing worse than driving away with your new purchase, only to find that it has an issue that is going to cost you dearly.

Have a professional inspector like German Precision to do a thorough pre-purchase car inspection in Melbourne to ensure that your dream car is operating properly and not a scam.

If you are looking for the best pre-purchase car inspector in Melbourne, do not hesitate to contact German Precision or Prepurchase Check today!