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You’d be forgiven thinking that a “new” car on a dealer lot rolled out of the factory within the past few weeks. The factories do, after all, build more of them all year long. But the truth is that a “new” car from the current model year may be over a year old. Read on to find out how old your “new” car is, how much older various important components are, and when you should be worried.

The easiest way to check the age of a car is to open the door and read the door sticker. This sticker is either stuck to the door itself, or the door frame. But it begins with a date in the MM/YY format. So if the sticker says 10/23, then your car was manufactured in October 2023.

A car with the above date may be a 2024 model year vehicle. This is because most auto manufacturers switch their factories over to build the next model year around October 1st. This date is common because dealerships often order cars 4-8 weeks ahead. But many manufacturers switch over production earlier. During important model year changes, I’ve seen production change over as early as August.

Considering all of this, you could theoretically walk into a lot in December 2024 and pick up a “2024” vehicle that was built 16 months earlier, in August 2022. You’d be able to tell instantly if you read its door sticker, but would you still want to buy it?

The truth is that most “new” vehicles you buy have sat in storage for a while, then spent time being transported, and finally lived on the dealer lot for a bit before you encountered them. So there’s no reason to be concerned if a vehicle is a few months old. If you are looking at two similar vehicles, you could choose the one with the more recent build date. But if you are worried about specific components (such as tires), you could also do more research.

The door sticker is not the only build date your vehicle has. Individual components also have build dates. These are mostly safety items or other wear items that have an expiration date.

Dealership salesman and customer go through car paperwork.
Car buying | David Gyung

First and foremost are tires. Most tire manufactures stamp some kind of date code into the sidewall of each tire. This is because tires wear out just by being exposed to the elements. Many experts recommend you only run them for six to 10 years, even if you have tread life.

Because the tire manufacturer shipped tires to the automaker’s factory, they could have been in storage for a year before being installed on a brand new vehicle. So if the vehicle took another year to get to you, the tires could be getting a bit long in the tooth. It’s worth checking these date codes, and possibly asking for a discount.

You can also find manufacture dates on a new car’s windows, seat belts, shock absorbers, battery, muffler, trunk, and hood.

Most car windows are stamped with a single digit, which stands for the final number of the year made, as well as a letter. The letter (from A to M) stands for the month made, with A being January, B being February, etc. Other manufacturers have codes for each month that are a combination of dots and slashes.

Every seat belt must have a label affixed and this has an easy-to-understand date: day, month, and year.

Other items, such as the shock absorbers, battery, muffler, hood, and trunk, have a manufacturer date in an entirely different format. It often looks like week/year. The week is a number from 1-52 and shows when in the year it was made. The year is usually just the final two digits of the year. Other parts have day/year, so the first number is between one and 365.

If your “new” car was assembled long ago, it is probably already discounted by the dealer. So if its mileage is low, you may actually prefer to buy an “older” new car. If it isn’t discounted yet, you can always ask for some money off.

Should you be worried about how old your “new” car is? Rarely is a current model year car going to give you any problems because of old components. Honestly, it’s as important to pay attention to its odometer and ask how many test drives its been out on as it is to worry about manufacture dates.

Next, find out how many miles a “new” car can have on the odometer, or see more about reading door stickers in the video below: