Determining the age of the car

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Build and compliance plates

A car’s age will affect its resale value. The build plate, which can usually be found on the firewall between the engine and passenger compartments, is affixed to a motor vehicle when it is assembled.

The build date differs from the car’s compliance plate date, which confirms that the vehicle complies with Australian design standards for safety and emissions. The date shown on the compliance plate is the date when it was fitted to the vehicle by the importer (for imported cars) or the manufacturer (for locally built cars).

With some vehicles, there may be a significant difference between the build date and the date of compliance due to shipping and storage time. The compliance plate may even be fitted in a different year.

Odometer tampering

Tips

To avoid buying a vehicle with a tampered odometer, you should always:

  • inspect the condition of the vehicle - including wear and tear on carpets, seatbelts and the steering wheel. Be suspicious if, on a low-mileage vehicle, these show heavy use
  • check the vehicle’s log book for odometer readings during the vehicle’s history - for example, when it was bought, sold and serviced
  • contact the previous owner if known. When buying from a licensed motor car trader, you can ask for the previous owner’s details if these are not already displayed on the Licensed Motor car Trader Form 5 (window display for car with warranty)
  • view any vehicle reports.

Wear and tear on the carpets and steering wheel of a vehicle with low mileage are signs that potential buyers should be wary.

The winding back or replacement of an odometer - ‘odometer tampering’ - can be hard to spot. It can mean big losses for an unsuspecting buyer when discovered.

It artificially inflates a vehicle’s value, so the buyer pays more than they would if they knew the true mileage. When odometer tampering is discovered, the buyer may face a significant financial loss as the vehicle will lose value and potentially have higher service and repair costs than anticipated.

Tampered vehicles are likely to prove difficult to re-sell.

Buying privately

You have more protections if you buy from a licensed motor car trader than a private seller.

If you buy a tampered vehicle from a private seller, you could take legal action to seek compensation under the Motor Car Traders Act 1986 upon a finding of guilt or you could take action under the Australian Consumer Law (Victoria). However, this can be difficult and you may end up carrying all the losses.

Buying from a licensed trader

In Victoria, buying from a licensed trader gives you extra legal and financial protection under the Motor Car Traders Act 1986 and the Motor Car Traders Guarantee Fund.

If a licensed trader is found guilty of odometer offences, the affected consumer can seek compensation from the fund. A trader is, by law, responsible for any odometer tampering found to have happened on their premises or while the car was in their custody or control.

For more information, view our Compensation claims - cars section

Report it

Let us know if you suspect odometer tampering. View our Contact us page.

Penalties

Anyone found guilty of odometer tampering faces large fines, imprisonment or both. The offence of misrepresenting the accuracy of an odometer reading also carries significant fines.