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The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

How to Spot Odometer Tampering When Buying a Used Car

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How to Spot Odometer FraudThe truth is, crooks will do anything to make a few bucks. With sophisticated crimes like computer hacking and using credit card skimmers becoming easier for the average thief, it would seem that a simple trick like rolling back an odometer would become passé. However, because people can still get away with it, they continue to do it. When you are shopping for a used car, you must be aware of the signs that the odometer may have been rolled back.

How Much Can a Crook Actually Make by Altering an Odometer?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings. They estimate that this fraud costs consumers over $1 billion a year. The scam is a common one. High-mileage used cars are purchased at various locations and their odometers are altered to show lower mileage, thus increasing the value of the car. Mechanical odometers on older cars can be manually dialed back, but the digital odometers in newer cars must be hacked and reprogrammed. Neither of these methods is particularly difficult, making this an attractive crime for unscrupulous used car dealers.

Detecting Odometer Fraud

The NHTSA warns consumers to inspect used cars carefully for signs of odometer fraud. It offers the following tips for detecting when an odometer has been tampered with:

  • Compare the mileage on the title with the vehicle’s odometer. Take a close look for signs of tampering on the title as well.  Most dealers do not want to show you the title they have for the car you are buying.  Insist on seeing it even if the dealer agrees to do the work to have the title issued in your name.  You want to see any odometer descrepancies or brands on the title like salvage or flood damage that may be on the old title.

  • Check the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records, if there are any, and compare mileage notations to the odometer. You can also look for oil change stickers noting the mileage on windows or door frames.

  • With a mechanical odometer, you can sometimes see if the numbers have been tampered with. If they are crooked or contain gaps, walk away from the purchase.

  • Low-mileage vehicles should have the original tires, so take a careful look at them. If they are not original or have more wear and tear than they should, the odometer reading is probably false.

  • Inspect the gas, brake, and clutch pedals for wear and tear. Make sure it is consistent with the number of miles displayed on the odometer.

  • Use the car’s VIN to order a CARFAX vehicle history report online and an Autocheck report and check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history as well as prior accidents.

If you see any signs that the odometer has been tampered with, walk away. In fact, go to a different used car lot altogether.

How to Fight Odometer Fraud

If you have evidence that the odometer of a car you have already purchased has been tampered with, you may be able to take legal action against the seller of the car.  Fill out the form on this page to get in touch with us today and we will let you know if we can help.  The law provides for legal fees of up to $10,000 in damages.  

 

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