How to Spot Mileage Fraud When Buying a Used Car

June 9, 2023 by Zoe Hicks – 3 mins read

Being deceived by an unscrupulous dealer is a worrying aspect that most of us consider when buying a used car. However, you can protect yourself from unethical car sellers by being vigilant and doing your homework. So, to safeguard yourself on your next car purchase, take a look at Motorscan’s latest guide on spotting possible signs of mileage fraud and the measures you can take to avoid rogue sellers and their nefarious

Trust and transparency are paramount when looking for a used car. However, with digital odometers and the ease of manipulating mileage records making it easy for unscrupulous sellers to deceive unsuspecting buyers, there is a growing concern that mileage fraud is undermining buyers’ faith in the used car market. So, what can you do to safeguard yourself against mileage fraud? Motorscan has been exploring the subject, gathering all the information in our easy-to-read guide. Read on to discover the fraudulent methods employed by some car sellers, the measures to prevent yourself from falling foul of the practice and how to spot potential mileage fraud.

Can the mileage on a car be changed?

The simple answer is yes. A car’s mileage can be altered by rolling back the mileage, known as ‘clocking’, with dishonest sellers even providing forged or altered documentation, such as service records, inspection reports, or previous sales listings, to support their fraudulent mileage claims.

Can a dealer reset mileage?

Dealers are bound by legal obligations to provide accurate and truthful information about the vehicles they sell, resulting in severe penalties if they are found to be committing fraud. However, despite this, it is still feasible for unethical dealers to reset a vehicle’s digital odometer, erasing the true mileage history, by exploiting technical vulnerabilities or using specialised equipment. So, regardless of where you purchase a used car, you should never forget to be vigilant.

How do cars get clocked?

Clocking is when the odometer is rolled back to a mileage lower than its genuine miles travelled. It occurs when unscrupulous individuals or dealers reduce the mileage by manipulating the vehicle’s circuit board or employing specialised rollback equipment directly connected to the electronic circuitry. However, it is essential to note that such activities are illegal and on the whole, most dealerships are trustworthy. However, you should never stop being vigilant!

How can I check my car mileage is genuine?

Several indicators can suggest potential vehicle mileage tampering. One such sign is the presence of wear and tear that doesn’t align with the recorded mileage. For example, excessive wear on the steering wheel, pedals, gear knob or driver’s seat that contradicts low mileage could be a red flag. Similarly, examining the exterior for rust, dents or paint chips that seem inconsistent with the odometer reading may reveal attempts to hide a car’s true mileage. Additionally, ask to look at the documentation. Mismatched inspection reports, service records, or previous sales listings not corresponding with the mileage reading can raise suspicions and warrant closer inspection and research. By paying attention to these factors, potential buyers can become more vigilant in identifying possible mileage fraud in used cars.

How do you detect mileage fraud?

Whilst the indicators mentioned above may flag possible mileage tampering, conducting a vehicle history check is the most reliable approach to detecting mileage fraud, providing invaluable information about the vehicle’s mileage history and other vital data, including previous ownership and MOT records. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) maintains comprehensive vehicle mileage records through MOT tests and registration documents.

So, with Motorscan partnering with the DVLA and other renowned institutions such as car manufacturers, auction houses and leasing companies, we gather a comprehensive history of every vehicle in the UK, including up-to-date and accurate mileage data to provide the full picture. With a Motorscan vehicle history check, you can confidently assess the reliability of the odometer reading and promptly detect any potential irregularities. And for a glimpse into how effective our approach is, take a look at our mileage anomaly sample report. 

Is it illegal to sell a car with incorrect mileage?

Misrepresenting a vehicle’s mileage and deceiving potential buyers is a criminal offence. Sellers are legally obligated to disclose the accurate mileage of the vehicle they are selling. If a car seller knowingly sells a vehicle with incorrect mileage or fails to disclose that the mileage has been tampered with, they can face serious legal consequences that may result in fines, imprisonment, and potential legal action for the damages caused to the buyer.


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