Odometer fraud is one of the ways in which less than scrupulous dealers and car owners bilk consumers of used cars. Lowering the mileage of a used car makes it appear newer and in better condition. This allows the seller to ask for a higher price. As in everything else, when purchasing a used car, the maxim of “let the buyer beware” holds true—perhaps even more so. How then, can the canny consumer spot odometer tampering and avoid potential fraud?
First of all, when buying a used car, be aware that it is very easy to reset the mileage on the odometer. Tampering can be done by way of onboard diagnostics, such as OBD2, via the speedometer diagnostic connector or through the speedometer memory chip. Just about any technician in an auto-repair shop knows how to do this. But that doesn’t mean that the buyer (or anyone else) can tell. It’s just about impossible, in fact, to know when a meter has been tampered with.
Odometer Fraud Clues
The buyer instead, should look for clues and evidence that a car may be older than the mileage suggests. Ask to see service records, repair bills, and vehicle inspection reports. Inspect the interior trim and look for tears and other signs of heavy use, such as dingy, worn upholstery on the seats, and steering wheels that are cracked, crumbling or shrunken.
The dashboard of a car can also offer hints that an odometer has been tampered with. Look to see that the bottom of the dashboard is tightly closed. Examine the dashboard for damage or changes in shape.
Annual Mileage Formula
Perhaps the easiest way to spot odometer fraud and tampering is to keep a simple formula in mind. Typical annual mileage is 13,500 miles. Multiply the age of the car by 13,500 and compare the result to the numbers revealed in the odometer display.
If all else fails, and you’re still not sure whether or not someone is trying to pull one over on you, get an independent inspection from a mechanic who knows used cars. He or she can check the meter for tampering. And that will be an odometer verdict you can trust.