WEST PALM BEACH, FL – When it comes to the used car market, the age-old image of the stereotypical crooked used car salesman is one that has endured for years, deservedly so or not. However, one aspect of that image is making a major comeback recently in the form of unscrupulous tampering when it comes to the number of miles displayed on the odometers of the vehicles. While some believe the switch to digital displays has made this act of fraud more difficult, in some cases its become even easier to pull off.
The rise of odometer tampering comes at a time when the prices of used cars in the United States have finally begun to stabilize and lower after months of skyrocketing increases brought on by COVID-19-related supply chain issues.
2022 reports indicate that approximately two million vehicles have odometers that have been tampered with by dealers, which represents an increase of 7 percent year-over-year. California currently holds the crown this year for the state with the most instances of odometer fraud – 437,000 – which is a 2 percent jump from 2021, followed by Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
Odometer fraud is a very real crime that robs consumers of thousands of dollars in value from their purchases, in addition to potentially leading to a plethora of unexpected maintenance costs.
In older times, dishonest sellers had to actually go into the dashboard of a vehicle and crack open the odometer to physically roll the numbers back to hoodwink buyers; today, digital odometers can be rolled back by removing the vehicle’s circuit board to change the reading, or using rollback equipment that hooks right into the vehicle’s electronic circuit.
However, the digitization of vehicle readouts can also offer more of a clear-cut pathway to discovering if your vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with; experts say with increased data capture on the part of many automotive repair shops and other sources, it is much easier these days to tell if a digital odometer has been rolled back. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2021 increased the period of time for required ongoing odometer reporting from 10 years to 20 for any vehicle built in 2011 onward.
If you’re a consumer and are contemplating purchasing a used car, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from getting ripped off. Ask the seller to see the car’s original title to see the mileage reported at the time the title was issued, and if the maintenance records are included as well, examine the frequency of oil changes to get an idea of the vehicle’s accurate mileage. Remember, franchise dealerships such as Ford, Cadillac, GMC, etc., always keep a record of the mileage when a vehicle is brought in for service; check to see what the mileage was the last time the vehicle was dealer-serviced. Additionally, getting a vehicle history report from a service such as CarFax is recommended as well, which compares the car’s Vehicle Information Number (VIN) to state DMV databases chronicling cases of odometer fraud.
Christopher Boyle is an investigative journalist, videographer, reporter and writer for SEARCHEN NETWORKS® and The Published Reporter® as well as other independent news and media organizations in the United States. Christopher works on a wide variety of topics and fields, has been featured in print and online in a variety of publications, from local to national, and helps keep a keen-eye on what’s happening in the automotive world for Auto Buyers Market.