Find Earliest & Latest Date in R (Example)


In this tutorial you’ll learn how to determine the maximum and minimum dates of a vector in the R programming language.

The content of the tutorial looks as follows:

Let’s just jump right in.


Introduction of Example Data

The first step is to construct some data that we can use in the examples later on:

my_dates <- c("2022-05-17", "2021-07-27", "2024-11-08",  # Create character dates
              "2022-01-12", "2021-08-21", "2022-09-13")
my_dates                                                 # Print character dates
# [1] "2022-05-17" "2021-07-27" "2024-11-08" "2022-01-12" "2021-08-21" "2022-09-13"

Have a look at the previous output of the RStudio console. It shows that our example data is a vector of dates.


Example: Get Minimum & Maximum Date Using as.Date, min & max Functions

In this example, I’ll illustrate how to extract the earliest and latest dates from our example vector.

For this, we first have to check the data type of our example data using the class function:

class(my_dates)                                          # Check class of dates
# [1] "character"

At this point, our example data has the character class.

In order to be able to extract the min and max dates from our vector, we first have to convert our data to the Date class using the as.Date function:

my_dates_updated <- as.Date(my_dates)                    # Convert character to Date
my_dates_updated                                         # Print updated dates
# [1] "2022-05-17" "2021-07-27" "2024-11-08" "2022-01-12" "2021-08-21" "2022-09-13"

The previous R syntax has created a new vector object called my_dates_updated, which looks exactly the same as the original character vector.

However, we can see the difference by applying the class function to our updated vector object:

class(my_dates_updated)                                  # Check class of updated dates
# [1] "Date"

Our new vector object has the Date class!

Now, we can apply the min and max functions to find the earliest and latest dates of our vector.

The min function returns the minimum date…

min(my_dates_updated)                                    # Earliest date
# [1] "2021-07-27"

…and the max function displays the maximum date:

max(my_dates_updated)                                    # Latest date
# [1] "2024-11-08"


Video & Further Resources

Have a look at the following video of my YouTube channel. I’m explaining the R programming codes of this tutorial in the video:



Additionally, you may have a look at the other tutorials of this homepage. Some tutorials about dates can be found here:


To summarize: At this point you should know how to return the earliest and latest date of a date vector in the R programming language. Note that we could apply the same R code to the column of a data frame.

In case you have further questions, please let me know in the comments below. Furthermore, don’t forget to subscribe to my email newsletter for updates on new articles.


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