There are a number of potential risks involved when buying a car—from either a dealership or a private seller. And one of those risks is odometer fraud. This happens when an odometer is rolled back to portray that the car has been driven fewer miles than it actually has. To roll back an odometer is illegal in every state, but it is a fairly common scam. When this happens, the person who buys the car usually believes he has received a great deal on a used car, but then has to deal with costly repairs after the purchase. So as you begin searching for your car, consider that odometer fraud may be more common than you think.
Odometer Fraud in Traditional Odometers
It is fairly simple for someone to roll back odometers. On older model cars with mechanical counters, a person could buy an odometer repair kit that would allow him to adjust the mileage. He could simply open up the dash, and manually adjust the odometer.
Odometer Fraud in Digital Odometers
There is software designed to legally recalibrate faulty odometers, and these devices are being used to change the mileage, and thus increasing the value, on cars up for sale. With the right software, a digital odometer can be rolled back, much like a criminal can hack into a computer. Or, the entire gauge cluster could even be replaced with a different one.
How to Detect Odometer Fraud
- First, you should request to see the car’s title because it should have the car’s mileage history listed on it.
- You should also compare the mileage on the odometer with the vehicle’s maintenance records—both paper copies, or you could see if there is still an oil-change sticker on the windows or elsewhere in the car.
- Missing screws on the dashboard could indicate tampering.
- Always get a vehicle history report before you buy the car.
- Crooked numbers on a traditional odometer could be an indicator of tampering. Also, hit the dashboard, and see if the numbers shake with the vibration. This could also mean tampering.
- Compare the ware and tear of the car with the odometer reading. If it looks like the car has been through a lot more than, say, 30,000 miles… use caution.
- Get a mechanical inspection from a trusted mechanic.
Keep in mind that, in many states, odometer readings are considered “faulty” after ten years of age… and the mileage may not legally need to be accurately disclosed on your contract. If you have a contract, it might state “exempt” mileage or “TMU” (true mileage unknown). If you buy a car with rolled back mileage, and learn about this fact later, you may not have a leg up in court. So, if you think a car’s odometer has been tampered with, it’s best to look elsewhere.
As you begin your search for a new or used car, let FederalAutoLoan.com help. One of the most frustrating parts of the car-buying process is shopping around for lenders and dealers to approve you… especially if you have bad credit. That’s why FederalAutoLoan.com wants to help with this step. After you fill out our free, no obligation application, we will send it off to our nation-wide network of lenders and dealers. Many of the lenders and dealers that we work with are specialists in the bad credit market, which means they may better understand how to help those with less than perfect credit get the loans they need. With our help, you may be better equipped to getting your new or used car. Or, if we can connect you to multiple lenders and dealers, you could compare their offers, and choose one to work with. But the choice is yours! You are under no obligation to work with anyone we connect you with. And, once you start looking at cars… make sure there is no evidence of odometer fraud!