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Odometer fraud is still an issue for modern car buyers

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Dealer Fraud

Many humorous depictions of vehicle salespeople have historically included elements of odometer fraud. Even cartoons might show a salesperson driving a vehicle backward or hooking wires up to a drill to reverse the odometer to show misconduct on the part of the salesperson.

Many modern vehicle buyers fall victim to the misconception that digital odometers protect them from fraud. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people purchasing used vehicles overpay because the odometer reflects an inaccurately low number of miles traveled. Both older vehicles with mechanical odometers and newer vehicles with digital ones may not accurately show the distance that a vehicle has traveled.

Why odometer fraud matters

The more miles a vehicle has traveled, the closer it is to the end of its serviceable life. Used car buyers are often eager to find vehicles with lower mileage. A vehicle previously owned by an older adult who only drove for grocery shopping and to attend church every week would have far less wear and tear than a vehicle used to commute to work and take children to extracurricular activities multiple times a week.

The more miles that a vehicle has traveled, the more likely it is to require substantial repairs in the near future. Therefore, buyers need to know how much a vehicle has traveled to determine if the price requested for the vehicle is appropriate. Unfortunately, quite a few buyers every year fall victim to odometer fraud. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that roughly 450,000 vehicle sales each year involve inaccurate odometer readings. The loss of funds due to a misunderstanding of a vehicle’s true value can cost car buyers more than $1 billion each year.

How people uncover odometer fraud

There are many ways in which someone might discover odometer fraud. Vehicle reports that show a prior odometer reading that was much higher than the reading at the time of the sale could lead to questions. Mechanics might also find proof of intentional tampering with the odometer when they inspect or repair the vehicle.

Individuals with proof of a falsified odometer reading may have grounds to take legal action against a dealership. Holding salespeople and dealerships accountable for the misrepresentation of a vehicle’s condition can compensate those who invested in a car with more miles than they expected.

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