When you are shopping for a used vehicle, one of the things you may check is the mileage. The mileage on a vehicle determines how much the vehicle was used, its anticipated remaining lifespan, and the overall value of the vehicle. Because mileage plays an essential part in the buying decision, some shady sellers will change the odometer to reduce the vehicle’s mileage.
What is Odometer Rollback?
Odometer rollback is the act of changing the odometer display to reflect a lower number. This fraudulent act may add value to a vehicle because it “decreases” the mileage on the vehicle. Odometer rollbacks can be performed on vehicles of any age or style.
Can You Change the Odometer on a Car?
The first question everyone asks is can you change the odometer on a car? In the past, odometers were analog devices that could be rolled back using a few tools. Today, odometers are digital, so many people think it is impossible to change these odometers.
Is it Possible to Change Mileage on a Digital Odometer?
Digital odometers are easier to change than older analog odometers. Odometer rollbacks on digital odometers are also harder to detect. To change a digital odometer, a person can access the main computer of the vehicle and program lower mileage numbers into the system. Once the new mileage numbers have been typed in, a quick reset of the computer system establishes the new numbers as the “actual” mileage of the vehicle.
How to Tell if Your Odometer Has Been Rolled Back – Analog Odometers
If you are looking at a vehicle with an analog odometer, one of the easiest ways to tell that the odometer has been tampered with is fingerprints around the odometer or on the inside of the dashboard glass. Other ways that you can tell that the analog odometer has been tampered with are missing or loose screws in the dashboard around the odometer, odometer numbers not matching do not match up evenly in a row, and mileage that seems very low in comparison to the condition of the car.
How to Tell if Your Odometer Has Been Rolled Back – Digital
Is it possible to change mileage on a digital odometer without accessing the vehicle’s computer system? No. You must change the digital odometer with the main car computer. That is why it is much harder to determine if the odometer has been tampered with on these vehicles. There will not be any physical evidence on the dashboard to make you think twice about the accuracy of the odometer.
To determine if the odometer has been tampered with, you will either have to take the vehicle to a mechanic to have the odometer checked or use the same strategy for discovering the mileage you would use if the vehicle has a broken odometer.
Verifying Mileage With a Broken Odometer
If you are verifying mileage with a broken odometer, you can rely on a few tricks to see if the vehicle owner is accurate or close to it with their mileage claims.
Check Interior Condition
A vehicle that shows a lot of wear and tar in the driver’s area of the vehicle is more likely to have higher mileage than a similar car. Wear to the steering wheel, and gas and brake pedals happen naturally with use. If these areas look worn down, there is probably a lot of miles on the vehicle.
Check Service Records
Service records will list the vehicle’s mileage when the service is completed. You can look for discrepancies in the mileage on these receipts or service stickers placed on the car.
Check VIN Records
The VIN number of every car is unique to the vehicle. You can order a VIN history report on the vehicle, which will show each time the mileage has been recorded. You can search for discrepancies in these records.
Take it in For Maintenance
Another way to check car mileage is to take it to your preferred mechanic and have them check the vehicle. An experienced mechanic can tell by the wear and tear of different vehicle parts if the mileage reported is accurate.
The Costs of Being a Victim of Odometer Fraud
The mileage on any vehicle will help determine the value of the car. Vehicles with low mileage will almost always sell for more than those with high mileage. Low mileage on a collector’s or luxury vehicle can significantly affect the price.
If you are a victim of odometer fraud, you will pay more for your vehicle than its actual value. Additionally, you will not be able to sell the vehicle without disclosing that the odometer is inaccurate. Disclosing that the odometer is inaccurate will also reduce what you can resell the vehicle when you are ready to change vehicles.
When you are out shopping for any used car or truck, it is essential to know how to check car mileage for accuracy so that you are never placed at risk of purchasing a vehicle with a fraudulent odometer reading.
Always remember to run a VINsmart report on any used vehicle before making a purchase. A VINsmart report runs a complete history on the vehicle including whether it has ever been reported as stolen, involved in a major accident, or listed as a totaled vehicle.
VINsmart reports will also give you a registration history and mileage at registration. It reports any significant incidents related to the vehicle, such as being involved in a fire or flood.
When you are purchasing a used vehicle, the best way to ensure you make a good purchase is to know the vehicle’s complete history.