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The signs of tampering on a motor vehicle’s odometer

| Jan 27, 2021 | Consumer Protection |

Odometer fraud remains a problem, leading to unsuspecting consumers purchasing cars and trucks that have much more significant wear and tear than advertised. Tampering with a vehicle’s odometer is illegal, but it continues to occur. According to CARFAX, the problem has grown. The organization claims that more than 1.8 million motor vehicles on the road have incorrect mileage, representing a 13% increase from 2019.

Colorado is not immune from odometer fraud, either. The state has reported a steady increase in vehicles with odometer discrepancies in the past three years. In 2019, Colorado identified 34,400 cars with tampered odometers, representing a 12.4% increase from 2018 and a 20.3% increase from 2017. Consumers must be proactive in discovering the signs of odometer tampering even when inspecting the more modern digital odometers.

Inconsistences in inspection records, wear and tear

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared that roughly 450,000 cars and trucks with inaccurate odometer readings get sold annually. The NHTSA also estimates that consumers lose between $4 billion and $10 billion each year due to odometer fraud.

Deception stemming from odometer fraud has led to consumers being ripped off as they pay higher prices for vehicles that have a lot more miles on them. And the expenses continue to mount as consumers face unexpected repair bills since the motor vehicle has a lot more miles on it.

Here are some signs of odometer tampering:

  • Mileage on the odometer does not jibe with the mileage recorded on vehicle maintenance receipts or inspection records.
  • When the numbers on an analog odometer do not align and are unreadable. If you observe crooked numbers, it is likely that someone tampered with the odometer.
  • Suspicious signs in a vehicle’s wear and tear. Determine whether the wear and tear is consistent with the mileage recorded on the odometer. For example, in inspecting brakes, tires, pedals, the gear lever and the driving wheel, you can determine just how much usage the vehicle has had. A car with 50,000 miles on it should not share the same qualities as one with 150,000 miles on the odometer.
  • Visible scratches in the odometer area and the unnecessary replacing of parts.

Culprits behind odometer fraud vary. For example, organized groups with access to thousands of cars roll back or “clock” odometers then sell them at wholesale prices to auto dealers who sell to the unsuspecting public. There are also networks of people who purchase cars, roll back the odometers and sell them through classified internet ads, claiming the car belonged to a friend or relative. Or the fraudsters are simply just people who want to cheat on a car’s warranty.

When you spot inconsistencies, there is a likelihood that fraud has occurred.