Detecting Odometer Fraud

Earlier this year, Washington State was ranked 17th in the nation for odometer fraud, facing a reported 10% rise odometer fraud incidents. According to the CARFAX report, there were an estimated 30,600 vehicles in our state that have a rolled-back odometer. This scam can cost car buyers thousands of dollars as exemplified by the price of two identical cars, one with 150,000 miles and the other with 50,000 miles was found to be a $6,000 difference. Unfortunately, this scam can target anyone from small business owners to low-income individuals.

How easy is it to change the number on the reader? As it turns out, for only $300, a scammer can remove thousands of miles of a car’s history in a matter of seconds. So, if you’re considering buying a used car and want to make sure you don’t fall victim to this practice, here’s what you need to look out for. (Tips referenced from

Review the Title

If you are looking to buy from a private seller (Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.), make sure that you first look at the title and compare the mileage on the title with the mileage with the odometer. If it seems obscured or not easy to see, then it’s probably a sign that it has been tampered with.

Double Check Maintenance Records.

Digital odometers can now be altered to display lower or false mileage as easily as older models. One way you can check for odometer fraud is to compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance/inspection records. Also, you can look for oil change and maintenance stickers which may have odometer notations on them. These can typically be found on windows or door frames, in the glove box, or under the hood.

Examine the Tires

If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it will likely have the original tires. Excessive wear is another indication that the mileage may not be correct.

Obvious Wear & Tear

Use your common sense to closely inspect the pedals, edges on the gas, brake, and clutch pedals. Worn pedals is an indication of a high-mileage vehicle. If you aren’t sure, bring a friend for a second opinion or even better, ask if you can take the car to your local mechanic. Overall vehicle wear including brakes, wipers, and other moving parts should appear consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles shown on the odometer.

Request a Vehicle History Report.

While not always 100% accurate, these reports should be looked at closely to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, use the car’s VIN to order a vehicle history report online.

Check the Car’s Door Frame.

If an odometer is repaired or replaced and the odometer is incapable of registering the same mileage as before the repair or replacement, the odometer should be adjusted to read zero and a notice must be attached to the door frame specifying the mileage prior to replacement.

In sum, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Mileage is one of the leading factors in a car’s value, and a difference in mileage will only increase with the costs of maintaining a high mileage vehicle. Odometer fraud is illegal in all 50 states with a recent regulation requiring the reporting of the mileage in the title if the car is less than 20 years old. If you or someone you know has experienced odometer fraud, don’t hesitate to contact us and apply for legal assistance. We’re here to guide Washington consumers and advocate for your rights.

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