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.
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.
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.
Each compliance plate also bears the text “THIS VEHICLE WAS MANUFACTURED TO COMPLY WITH THE MOTOR VEHICLE STANDARDS ACT 1989.”
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.
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!