So how can you make sure that a used vehicle has not had its odometer tampered with or “rolled back”?
1. For older vehicles with standard “analog” odometers, check the dashboard and instrument cluster area and look for signs of damage that would be caused by a fast modification . Look at the pedals, steering wheel and shifter for clues of heavy wear that would not be in line with a lower-mileage car. Also, look at the odometer gauge to see if the number dials are not lined up properly or contain gaps.
2. Newer vehicles with digital odometers are a bit trickier to discover, but can be tampered with just as easily. Still, signs of wear are your best indicator of a dishonest car seller. If the car is showing mileage of 12,000 but has severely worn tires and brake pads, a red flag should go up right away.
3. Utilize CARFAX or similar services to retrieve a history report on the vehicle. You will be able to compare the mileage based on the last time the car was registered. CARFAX also offers a free odometer check tool.
4. Look at the title – if the seller can’t show you one, you shouldn’t be purchasing the car anyway – and compare mileage to the date listed on the title with current odometer mileage. Better yet, ask for repair or maintenance records, which will also list the vehicles actual mileage at the time the car was serviced or repaired.
5. Do I have legal recourse against the seller? The law entitles you to $1,500 or the actual amount of damages due to an incorrectly valued used car based on an altered odometer, whichever is greater, plus legal fees.
Whether buying a used car from a dealer or private party, you should always use the same high level of due diligence and common sense that you would with any other high dollar purchase. Don’t become a victim of odometer fraud! Do your homework.