When you look at cars for sale one thing you consider is how many miles are on the car, as indicated by its odometer. Lower numbers mean higher prices, as people want cars that have had less use than, say, 300k miles worth. Because of this it's become a concern that some sellers will roll back those numbers, and that's where the fraud comes in.
Odometer fraud is described from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration as the disconnection, resetting or alteration of a motor vehicle’s odometer with the intent to change the number of miles indicated. Tampering with the odometer is a serious crime and costs consumers $1 billion annually in the United States. It’s estimated that over 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with an inaccurate odometer.
The main problem with odometer rollbacks and why it costs consumers so much annually is that at buyers end up paying more than the vehicle is worth because the miles indicated are lower than the car's actual mileage. Rising new car prices, coupled with the desire for a low mileage used car is making odometer fraud one of the most profitable businesses for scammers on Craigslist and unethical used car lots.
Detecting odometer fraud can be tricky. Here at Instamotor we check based on available data to make sure that there has been no reported odometer inconsistency. We compare the owner's claimed current mileage to the vehicle's previous record and make sure both numbers are consistent to the national average miles driven per year.
Doing the data check is only one part of ensuring you don’t end up with a vehicle that has had an odometer tampered with.
Look at the numbers on the gauge of the odometer to see if they are aligned. If they’re off-kilter or have gaps and jiggle, you can consider it a red flag. This is only applicable for older vehicles with analog odometers.
Look at the tires. If the odometer shows 20,000 or fewer miles the vehicle should have it’s original tires. Look at the general wear and tear on the vehicle to make sure it’s consistent with the number of miles shown on the odometer.
Bring the vehicle to have it looked at by a certified mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. They can help determine if the odometer has been tampered with.
The Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation investigates fraud and helps to create public awareness about the incidents of odometer rollback. The law permits a buyer to bring a private civil action in State or Federal court by contacting his own attorney or the State Attorney General. If you believe you have been scammed, the office recommends that you consult an attorney to determine legal rights.
In order to determine fraud there must be factual evidence, including statements from the previous owner, receipts for repairs, service station stickers or other documents showing a variance in odometer readings. You may also obtain all the vehicle titling and registration information from the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. There are many allegations that follow odometer fraud and if it's been committed it shouldn't be taken lightly.