How to Catch Odometer Rollback

Andrew Koole
· 3 min read
Despite being illegal since the ‘70s, odometer tampering continues to be a nuisance in the used car market. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 450,000 vehicles with tampered odometers are sold every year, costing Americans more than $1 billion every year.
Catching odometer rollback can be tricky, but learning how criminals do it and the signs of their villainy can help you avoid being defrauded. With the used car market as hot as ever, there’s no better time to find out what to watch out for.
Don’t let shady sellers lie about the miles on a car.

How crooks cheat odometer readings

Since cars recorded mileage, people have tampered with odometers. Mechanical readers were relatively easy to roll back without much of a sign that they had been meddled with.
Digital odometers arrived in the 2000s as a perceived fix to the problem, but a
New York Times
report says the technology switch actually made catching rollback even harder. A simple search on YouTube shows all types of gadgets and procedures that allow people to lower their readings or freeze them in place.
Some businesses even offer "vehicle mileage correction," giving lip service to the illegality of odometer scams while providing the service to do it. Whether done professionally or by way of a Google search, successful tampering is next to impossible to detect.
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Signs of an altered odometer

While a false odometer won’t likely show signs of malfeasance, other indicators of a car’s usage can help you avoid being cheated.
Parts of a car that are frequently touched like pedals, steering wheels, and floor mats are good places to look to see how much a car has actually been used. Tires are often replaced, but they can also offer some insight into how many miles the car has logged.
You also want to consider the car’s previous owner and what the vehicle was used for. Cars used by elderly drivers will likely have lower readings than vehicles used by families or businesses.
A car’s repair history and other paperwork might also indicate the car’s true mileage, but if you’re still suspicious, have a trusted mechanic check the vehicle before you buy.

Other advice for buying a used car

Besides the steps already given above, you’ll want to take any used car for a test drive and compare its price to similar cars before signing any transfer-of-ownership papers. You should also compare car insurance prices to make sure you’re getting the best price for your coverage.
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