Odometer fraud, also referred to as "busting miles" or "clocking" (UK and Ireland), is the illegal practice of rolling back odometers to make it appear that vehicles have lower mileage than they actually do. Odometer fraud occurs when the seller of a vehicle falsely represents the actual mileage of a vehicle to the buyer.
According to the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation at the US Department of Transportation, odometer fraud is a serious crime and important consumer fraud issue. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 2002 odometer fraud study, the NHTSA determined that 450,000 vehicles were sold each year with false odometer readings, resulting in a cost of over $1 billion annually to car buyers in the US In the UK the Office of Fair Trading estimates the annual cost at £500m.
Common examples of odometer fraud include situations where someone tampers with the odometer by rolling it back or replacing the odometer and failing to provide the required notice on the vehicle. According to AIM Mobile Inspections, an evaluator of new and used vehicles, the incidence of odometer rollback for the purpose of misrepresenting the mileage of off-lease used vehicles had increased by 30 percent since the beginning of 2011.
Contrary to popular belief, suspending a (modern) running vehicle and running it in reverse will not reduce the odometer count. Late-model used vehicles such as those in lease and rental fleets that accumulate mileage very rapidly are generally thought to be more prone to odometer fraud than new vehicles.
There are a number of ways in which a vehicle buyer might determine existence of possible odometer fraud. In the US, states require vehicle purchasers to obtain a title or certificate of registration due to federal laws. These titles contain information about a vehicle's odometer history. The information can be accessed through each state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Other options to detect odometer fraud include contacting the vehicle's former owners, conducting a mechanical inspection of the vehicle with particular attention to normal but harmless wear and tear such as to floor-mats and the rubber on pedals (or to suspiciously new such items), and checking the vehicle's history report (see Used car for a list of vehicle history services in different countries).
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- Preliminary Report: The Incidence Rate of Odometer Fraud, 7 October 2013.
- BBC: Customers duped by car-clocking, 31 March 2011.
- NYT: With Off-Lease Cars, Firm Sees Increase in Odometer Tampering, 3 October 2011.
- Contact Information for All State Departments of Motor Vehicles
- Federal Odometer Laws
- Consumer Guide to Avoiding Odometer Fraud