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Odometer Fraud

Odometer Fraud

Despite increased safety measures and increasingly stringent laws, consumers still fall victim to odometer fraud daily. Due to a lack of consumer awareness, consumers think that the oldest car fraud in the book couldn’t possibly happen to them in today’s era with safer vehicles and digital odometers. That was the general idea when digital odometers were created to replace their mechanical forbearers, but the sad fact is that with odometer correction software readily available via the Internet, odometer fraud is easier than ever, and harder to detect.

What is Odometer Fraud?

Odometer fraud happens when someone resets or alters a vehicle’s odometer and/or documentation in any way with the intent to show less than the actual mileage. The odometer is the number one way to know how much use the car has seen and also helps indicate the vehicles condition and impending necessary repairs. As any mechanic will tell you there are certain things that need to be checked, changed or repaired every 20,000; 60,000 or 120,000 miles. If a vehicle has been “clocked” or “spun” the vehicle, may not receive the servicing it needs for its true mileage, putting the vehicles owner at risk.

Odometer tampering is a serious crime and consumer fraud issue that is on the rise. In 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a government office that is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, determined that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings, draining American car buyers out of more than $1 billion annually.

The U.S. group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety estimate that dealers make 10 cents profit for each mile the odometer is rolled back. Ten cents a mile doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. For example, a vehicle that is rolled back 35,000 miles, at 10 cents a mile, equals $3,500 profit or more.

Odometer fraud is most common with newer models that have accumulated a high mileage in a short amount of time, these are often leased, company and rental vehicles. Surprisingly, odometer fraud is committed most often by wholesalers who sell to dealers. The unaware dealer then sells the vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer.

One Victim’s Story

“The car was about 5 years old, looked to be in great condition, and I paid $6,000 for it,” says Sarah Evenson. “I’d heard about odometer rollbacks, but I was very surprised when I found out it had been done to my car.” Sarah, like many other car buyers, thought she’d gotten a great deal on the used car she bought through a private seller, but it wasn’t long before it was giving her serious headaches.

“It was burning oil. So I took it in to a dealer, and rather than deal with the repairs, I figured I’d just trade it in,” she explains. The dealer Sarah visited was a CARFAX subscriber, who ran a report on the car using its vehicle identification number (VIN). Unfortunately, he had bad news for her; someone had pulled off a classic used car scam: odometer fraud.

“The CARFAX report showed the car’s odometer had been rolled back about 40,000 miles,” Sarah said. Since the dealer could only offer her $900 for the car, Sarah decided to go ahead and spend $3,000 to replace the engine.

“In Sarah’s case, when it turned out her odometer had been rolled back, the value of her car instantly dropped by nearly $5,000,” explained Larry Gamache, director of communications for CARFAX. “On top of that, she had to spend an additional $3,000 on repairs.”

Protect yourself from odometer fraud

The best way to avoid being the next victim of odometer fraud is to look for the warning signs when shopping for a used car. Beware, Jack Gillis author of The Car Book, estimates that 1 out of 10 used cars on the market has had their odometer meddled with. However, using the following tips will keep you from falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book:

Ask if the seller has a CARFAX Vehicle History Report, if they don’t, spend the money to get one – you won’t regret it. Use the report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history.

Don’t be shy, ask to see the title and compare the mileage with the odometer.

Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, look for oil change and maintenance stickers, usually found on windows, door frames, glove box or under the hood, these always include the mileage.

Check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are correctly aligned. If they’re crooked, contain gaps or wobble when you hit the dash with your hand, walk away from the deal and report it.

Be wary of older vehicles that have a shockingly low mileage.

Examine the tires. Tires last for about 20,000 miles, so if the odometer shows 20,000 miles or less, it should still have the original tires. If they don’t, be skeptical and ask questions.

Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle. Pay careful attention to the gas, brake, clutch pedal and rugs; the amount of wear should correspond with the mileage.

Have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle. He will be able to tell if the wear and tear is consistent with the mileage.

It is possible that an odometer may be rolled back and not identified in a CARFAX, this can happen in several ways. The most common being the odometer is rolled back, but not beyond the last recorded mileage, or the title itself is altered, and the mileage is rolled back.

If you have been a victim of odometer fraud report it to the NHTSA at 202-366-4761 or odometerfraud@dot.gov, you are also encouraged to contact a lawyer. If you come across a vehicle with an altered odometer report it and prevent others from falling victim.

24 thoughts on “Odometer Fraud”

  1. I have just bought a 2000 nissan frontier in tennessee, after i left the dealer with the truck i noticed that the odometer was stuck and not increasing any and the mph hand was not working. The dealer did not inform me to any of this, is this legal? I tried to return to the dealer but they had closed for the day. I did have them run a carfax before and it did not show any odometer problems.

  2. I bought a BMW from a dealership knowing the speedo and some other things where wrong with it but car drove great and traded my caddy in and swapped keys and got a $1000 cash back in my pocket. I noticed later on the next day that the odometer doesn’t work and is not racking up miles like it should and they purposely but a car for sale on there lot like this. What’s my best play here anyone? Any help is much appreciated.

  3. I am trying to buy an 06 lincoln navigator with a odometer reading of around 86700 at a independent car lot, well today i spent the money for a carfax and it shows that in 06/15/2014 when it had a texas state inspection the millage was clocked at 114*** miles. If anyone is thinking in buying a used car, don’t hesitate to spend the money for a car history report and in the lung run the $40 + dollars might just save you a headache and a lot of money.

    1. I bought a 2005 Cadillac with 108379 miles my mistake I didn’t check carfax before pay and surprise me the real miles was 244000

  4. I just purchased a 2006 Nissan Sport Quest van and received paperwork from the dealer to be signed and sent back. I noticed on the forms it asked for mileage on the vehicle it had a “0” and no other numbers. So I called the dealership and told them I needed the mikeage on the vehicle for insurance company. I called twice spoke to 2 different people and they said they’d call me back. Never called me. So I have to call again tomorrow. Should they be reported?

  5. this past thursday 7/30/15 i purchased a truck with the website showing 256k miles, however i am just now looking at the contract and the dealer wrote in 163k miles on the contract, what should i do?

    1. Hi Vincent,

      I would contact the dealer to have them correct the issue. You’ll want to make sure that the correct mileage is listed in all registration and title documents.

      1. I ended turning the truck back in, and told them it was classified as fraud because the only way the bank would approve the loan was if it had less miles, and I’m guessing they knew so they changed it. I told them I was getting a lawyer and they got scared and gave me most of my down payment back. I will be calling the dmv to report them. I could only imagine how many other times they’ve done this.

  6. I just purchased a used car on Saturday from a dealer who advertised mileage at 23,505 miles. The purchase contract and Odometer Disclosure Statements printed by the dealer and signed by me show 23,613 miles. Actual mileage on the vehicle is 36,505. What should I do? Appreciate a reply when you get a chance. Thank you.

  7. went to trade my daughter car back in for a newer car and found out that the well known dealer roll it back 40k miles now what they are under new management now .???

  8. I am currently paying on a 09 Dodge Ram that showed when I purchased it that it had 121,000 miles on it. Recently the transmission went out on it so I took it to a mechanic that then informed me that the miles have been tanpered with and showed that the truck really has 277,331 miles. I’m not to sure what to do since I am still paying on the truck. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  9. I bought a car I believe has been rolled. The title says 120,000 ,the odometer reads 56,772.The Craigslist ad said 140,000.After I had the money transfered then seller then decides to hand me the title then hurry to a vehicle and leave.I asked the lady right away about the ad posting and odometer milage difference.She said when she made the ad she wasn’t exactly sure what the mileage was and she was away from the car so she guessed it .The car runs great so far it’s been over 1 month.The interior is in great condition. But the exterior has alot of wear and tear the paint is faded there are gaps in the front and back .The weather seals are gone. The head lights and ballast need replacement completely. But the car rides like it new drives like new .Interior looks new.The car is a 2007,someone please help I checked carfax and it says no odometer roll.The seller told me the car had a previous salvaged title in another state but the title had been reconditioned. Also I didn’t find any information about the car have a salvaged title on my carfax report.The title doesn’t say salvage either.How do I get the actual milage on my car?Is this a rolled odometer?what do I do if so?

  10. I bought a car from a private seller who then sold it to a dealership he is partnered with. It was 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 Executive car apparently, drives great, except the carfax I was given was fake, I found the actual one online and was shocked to find out every word of the seller was a lie, I was told 1 owner vehicle, no accident or damage, and that everything was stock, I paid $5000 dollars down payment to pay off this rich b*stards current debt and am now $20,755.00 in the hole, with a car, I can’t even register! I’m outraged this selfish indulged piece of work, who then decided with the money I paid and from his apparent trade in bought an audi, act all smug and high class, when really he is a con artist. what’s worse is that the vehicle was in a slightly less than perfect condition, including curbing, rock chips, paint damage, and the fact the miles had shot up almost 1,000 from advertisement and the odometer mileage doesn’t add up on the carfax, on the actual carfax the reported mileage is higher than the one listed on my bill of purchase by 200 miles, also the car is listed as a dealer purchase not a private sale! to makes things so much worse, I did further digging with VIN lookups and this car has been under the radar and sold at least 5 times at auctions both in 2014 and 2015 which are not reported on the carfax! I’m not even sure it’s even the right car… even the damage supposedly reported in 2010 and in 2012 have no repairs to it reported, the carfax has no reports of lemon or odometer rollback. but there is a discrepancy with a salvage title under the VIN with a different color and different reading. something seems wrong here and I am investigating it, luckily the car is under carfax buyback gurantee, so if the problem is not resolved carfax, can take the vehicle back. as for the seller who has profiled off my $5000, f*** you and I hope you get what’s coming to ya, you don’t mess with someone in the law business, I’ll see you in court very soon, and trust me I have all the evidence I need to file a civil lawsuit and no amount of money will save you then. as for the other people who too have suffered loss on a vehicle call the NHTSA and have everything resolved for you, mention conversations, doxuments and if you have pictures use it against them, don’t let these people win, call the DMV verify it and have it recorded. Get your money back, or a replacement vehicle at no cost, if the car is faulty, damaged etc, have the manufacturer take a look at it, get a certified manufacturer mechanic to look it over get a report, receipt anything to show it was fraudulently sold, file case if you wish but remember these are people/dealerships who can use just as much against, make sure your bill doesn’t say SOLD AS IS, if this happens they will tear you a new one with the bulls*it of they’re under no obligation to verify problems with the vehicle and date of purchase. by law if a dealership or individual sells you a car with not actual mileage but is not reported on a service or a car report, IT IS A FELONY you have legal rights to file a police matter with the DMV or file a lawsuit based on the evidence. there is nowhere stated that you aren’t allowed to take legal action. Good luck with resolving the odometer fraud guys, let’s hope we get justice served. (:

  11. I am the first and only owner of my 9 year old vehicle. The car fax shows a rolled back odometer issue on the car fax. It is clearly a clerical error on the car fax side that will potentially impact me thousands of dollars if not corrected. Car fax’s are generally good. But this example shows a weeakness with them and consumers like me should not be hurt or negatively impacteed by them because of clerical errors. Car fax should have an obligation to notify owners that they are reporting negative information about non-customers assets. Now I am chasing an issue in order to close a new car deal and no one is in the car fax office because of the holidays to address the issue. Very frustrating.

  12. I recently purchased a 2009 chevy cobalt wit i got the car 3 months ago it had 96,634 miles but now the odometer says it has 96,232. What actions can i take? I would mainly like to know if i can get most of my car loan if not then some of it. As soon a i get the chance i plan to take it to a trusted mechanic, like the blog suggested, and get an estimation

  13. I brought a car in 2012, and tried to trade or refinance. But I was told the car odometer was reset and the car has frae damage an accident.I reached out to the dealer to see of they would by back their car, they are giving me the run around. Now I am stuck with a car that is worth less than 1000.00 and I owe 9800.00

    How can the be held accountable for fraud??????

  14. I find alot of this hard to believe. Carfax is a business and can have mistakes. If someone guesses at the miles on a safety and enters then high and next year your miles are lower. Now carcax will say odo rolled back… Witch isn’t true its just because someone guessed at the miles…. And second what pos is someone buying for 6k thats only 5 yrs old? And in 40k over the miles it need a new engine and was worth 5k less because it really had 40k more. So this 5 yr old car is worth 1k. I dont think so keep in mind carfax is a business and makes money charging you for a report that may not be right

  15. I just bought a 94 mustang gt.Tomorrow will be 1 week I’ve owned it.The first day I noticed the mileage hasn’t changed.I called few days later cause to busy and they obviously knew by the sound of voice but played it off as something I may have done to cause it.I would like to sue them if possible and have them pay off the car for me and I pay the loan.Is that possible or to even get more money from them for fraud ?

  16. I just bought a car and I was trying to sale it I found out that the mikes in the dash are not the original I have register on my name I haven’t got any stickers for it,what can I do here pls help

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