In this article, we study the free vibration and the mechanical buckling of plates using a three dimensional consistent approach based on the scaled boundary finite element method. The in-plane dimensions of the plate are modeled by two-dimensional higher order spectral element. The solution through the thickness is expressed analytically with Padé expansion. The stiffness matrix is derived directly from the three dimensional solutions and by employing the spectral element, a diagonal mass matrix is obtained. The formulation does not require ad hoc shear correction factors and no numerical locking arises. The material properties are assumed to be temperature independent and graded only in the inplane direction by a simple power law. The effective material properties are estimated using the rule of mixtures. The influence of the material gradient index, the boundary conditions and the geometry of the plate on the fundamental frequencies and critical buckling load are numerically investigated. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.