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Find a New Car's Manufacture Date & Benefit From It

By | Published December 22, 2015

Sometimes when you are out car shopping, you will come across a situation where you see several identical vehicles on the lot. It is likely that the salesperson will steer you towards one in particular. You may not even notice because if they are all the same car then it shouldn't really matter which one in particular you buy.

Identical Vehicles Could be Different Ages

Even though several cars on the lot might be the same year, color and have the same options, they may have been manufactured and delivered to the dealership at different times. Therefore, one of the group of cars might be much newer or much older than the others.

Dealers have to order their inventory four to eight weeks ahead of time. They can't always perfectly predict how many of each model they will sell. They might end up ordering the same version of a model a few months in a row and then end up with several sitting on the lot.

sticker on car door jamb

How to Find the Age of A Car

There isn't any way for you to tell exactly what day a car was manufactured or what day it was delivered to the dealership. You can pretty easily find out what month and year a particular vehicle was manufactured in. You can use this information to estimate how long it has been on the lot. The information is very useful in comparing the relative age of two or more cars.

The month and year of manufacture will appear on a sticker that is located somewhere around the driver's door. Sometimes it is on the door and sometimes it is on the door frame. Either way, you only have to open the door to find it.

On the sticker you will find the month and year of manufacture (normally in the upper left) in mm/yy format. For example, 12/15 will mean the car was manufactured in December of 2015. The dealer will typically receive the car one to two months after manufacture.

car manufacture sticker

When comparing two or more cars on the lot, the relative dates give you a good idea of how long they've been on the lot relative to each other. If one has a date of 08/15 and the other has a date of 10/15, you can conclude that the latter one has been on the lot one to three months less. If the first was manufactured at the end of August and the second at the beginning of October, it might only be a little over a month newer. If one was the beginning of August and the other at the end of October then it could be almost three months.

Does the Age of a New Car Matter?

This question should actually be asked from two perspectives. It might matter to you for a couple of reasons and it might matter to the dealer for other reasons.

Why a Vehicle's Age Matters to the Dealer

Dealers don't typically pay cash for the inventory on the lot. They usually use a specific type of financing called floor planning. Since they are taking out a loan to bring the car onto the lot, there are expenses involved. There will normally be some type of cost to the dealer for every day a car is sitting on the lot.

sticker on car door jamb

There are some cases where the dealer will get free interest for a period of time but normally those arrangements involve a system of credits. The full details of how much it costs a dealer to have a car on the lot per day are beyond the scope of this article.

In general, every day that a car is on the lot waiting to be sold will cost a dealer in some way. It will either cost them interest or earn them less in credits. Due to these reasons, they usually want to sell the older cars first. Even if they are in a free interest period of some type, the longer the car sits, the closer it is to hitting the point where they pay interest.

Why the Age Matters to You

There are two reasons the age could matter to you. The first is that you may simply want the newest one out of the available inventory. The less time a vehicle has been at a dealership, it is likely that fewer people have been inside of it and test driven it. In extreme weather, the newer car has been exposed to the elements for less time.

You'll probably want to pay particular attention to special edition vehicles that may have been on the lot for an extremely long period of time. A few years ago, a local dealer had two special edition Corvettes on the lot. Even though they were the same model year, one was close a year older. If they aren't starting it up and driving it regularly, seals and gaskets can start to dry out and fail. Not to mention, the sun beating down on the paint for all that time.

car manufacture sticker

The second reason that the age might matter to you is that you may be able to negotiate a better deal on the car that has been on the lot the longest. As we discussed above, dealers normally want to sell the older inventory first. They might be willing to give you a lower price or some type of incentive to take the oldest one.

Based on what the price difference would be, you will have to decide what is more important to you. Would you rather have a better deal or a car that has been on the lot for less time? Let us know what you would decide in the comments section.

Before you head out to the dealership, make sure to do your homework. First, read our new car buying guide. Use the power of the internet and get a Price Certificate from TrueCar to set the baseline of your negotiation. Then use sites like CarClearanceDeals and Cars.com to get additional quotes so that you can maximize the power of your negotiation.

Author Lyle Romer

About The Author: Lyle Romer is a consumer advocate, Founding Contributor and Vice President of CarBuyingTips.com. For over 17 years, he's been researching all aspects of the automotive sales industry. The findings of his research are incorporated into the main content on CarBuyingTips.com. He has been an auto industry insider since 1999. Lyle also has worked with other automotive websites to help improve their offerings based upon feedback from CarBuyingTips.com users. He can be found on Google+.

Connect with the author via: Email | Google+

CarBuyingTips.com has affiliate referral relationships with multiple web sites. This means that for many of the links you see on this site, we are paid referral fees for leads generated from visitors that click on links or fill out forms on this site. In some cases we are paid a commission for a purchase made on a site that is linked to from CarBuyingTips.com. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.