Odometer Fraud: Uncovering One Of The Biggest Hidden Traps in Used Car Buying

Published on
April 2, 2024

How to Spot and Avoid Rolling Back the Truth

Odometer fraud, the illegal practice of altering a vehicle’s mileage, affects over 450,000 cars sold annually, costing buyers more than $1 billion. Understanding and spotting odometer tampering is crucial for any used-car shopper. It’s a deceptive practice that can make an old car appear fresher, directly influencing its market value and the buyer’s perception.

And you may be wondering if this even impacts you personally. Well, it just might. This has been going on for decades, and was even included as a gag in the 1996 film “Matilda”, when Danny DeVito's character shows his children how he makes his money.

Image From: https://supercarblondie.com/buying-used-car-7-hot-tips-always-keep-mind/

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasizes the widespread impact of this deceit, urging consumers to be cautious. Recognizing the signs of odometer fraud can save individuals from the financial and safety pitfalls associated with overpriced and possibly overused vehicles.

Detecting Odometer Fraud

Despite the challenges, detecting odometer fraud is achievable with vigilance. Here’s how you can protect yourself:

Ask and Verify

Examine the car’s title and compare it with the odometer reading. Look closely if the mileage seems unclear or hard to read. Discrepancies between the title and odometer readings can be a clear indicator of tampering.

A transparent history of ownership and mileage documentation is essential for validating a vehicle's integrity. Consumers should approach vehicles with obscured or hard-to-read mileage notations with skepticism, as this is a common tactic used by fraudsters.

Maintenance Records and Mileage Consistency

Check the vehicle’s service records against the odometer display. Maintenance stickers found in the car can also provide mileage clues. Consistent service history that matches the odometer reading strengthens the vehicle’s credibility.

Inconsistencies, such as more wear on the vehicle than the mileage suggests, should raise red flags. It’s vital to verify that the car’s maintenance history aligns with its reported mileage to avoid falling victim to odometer fraud.

Original Tires and Wear Consistency

A car showing low mileage should still have its original tires. Additionally, assess the vehicle's wear, particularly on the pedals, to see if it matches the odometer’s tale. Vehicles with low odometer readings but significant wear and tear may have been tampered with.

The condition of the tires and pedals can reveal the truth about a car’s actual usage. A mismatch between the odometer reading and physical wear is a strong indication of fraudulent activity.

Vehicle History and Reporting Fraud

Obtain a vehicle history report for any odometer discrepancies. If you suspect fraud, immediately contact your state’s law enforcement agency. A comprehensive vehicle history report can unveil past odometer readings, revealing any potential rollback. Prompt reporting of suspected odometer fraud helps protect not only the individual consumer but also the integrity of the used car market.

Engaging with law enforcement and consumer protection agencies ensures that fraudulent sellers are held accountable.

Odometer tampering not only inflates the vehicle’s value but also leads to unexpected maintenance costs and resale issues. Globally, countries like Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania report high instances of odometer fraud, highlighting its international prevalence.

Legal and Financial Repercussions

Tampering with an odometer, known as “busting miles” in the US or “clocking” in the UK and Canada, incurs serious legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment. Consumers should remain alert, especially when considering high-mileage or formerly leased vehicles, which are prime targets for fraud. Legal actions against odometer tampering are enforced to preserve market fairness and consumer trust.

The financial implications of such fraud extend beyond the initial purchase, influencing subsequent ownership costs and vehicle longevity. Awareness and due diligence are key in combating odometer fraud and ensuring a fair used car market.

If you need to report odometer fraud, you can contact +1-888-327-4236 to speak to NHTSA.

Quick Navigation

You don’t need a good credit score to have great car insurance!

Check out how much you could save today.

Check Our Prices
You don’t need a good credit score to have great car insurance!

Check out how much you could save today.

Check Our Prices
A weekly newsletter with useful info to help you get to where you’re going.
By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy and provide consent to receive updates from our company.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.