Odometer fraud

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Odometer fraud, also referred to as "busting miles" (United States) or "clocking" (UK, Ireland and Canada), 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.[1]

According to the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation at the US Department of Transportation,[2] 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.[3] In the UK, the Office of Fair Trading estimates the annual cost at £500m.[4]


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,[5] 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.

A Motorcheck analysis of the Irish used car market showed 15% of all used cars for sale are clocked, with 70% of these cars being diesel engines.[6]

Odometer fraud was depicted in the opening scene of the 1980 film Used Cars.


There are a number of ways in which a vehicle buyer might determine existence of possible odometer fraud.[7] 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).

Modern cars often employ digital odometers. These odometers are said to be, in some cases, even easier to tamper with than mechanical odometers with the use of several electronic tools, most of which plug in via a car's OBD2 port.[8][9]


  1. ^ "Odometer Fraud | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) | U.S. Department of Transportation". 13 July 2007. Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Odometer Fraud | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) | U.S. Department of Transportation". 2 March 2010. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  3. ^ Preliminary Report: The Incidence Rate of Odometer Fraud, 7 October 2013.
  4. ^ BBC: Customers duped by car-clocking, 31 March 2011.
  5. ^ NYT: With Off-Lease Cars, Firm Sees Increase in Odometer Tampering, 3 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Warning on surge in 'clocked' cars". Irish Independent. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  7. ^ "How to identify odometer tampering while buying used cars in India". CarSangrah. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  8. ^ Trujillo, Anne; Ogden, Shannon; Larson, Jace; et al. (20 February 2019). How to spot odometer rollback fraud on your used vehicle (News report). Denver 7. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 21 December 2020 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Larson, Jace (24 January 2019). "How to spot odometer rollback fraud on your used vehicle". WPTV. Retrieved 22 December 2020.


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