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“Clocking” or tampering with an odometer occurs in over 450,000 vehicle sales annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When a lot of a vehicle’s resale value hinges on the accrued mileage, it is no surprise. If you are the purchaser, an unreliable odometer reading can mean unanticipated repairs later, possibly major ones.
The NHTSA has developed some tips to help you determine if the vehicle you are considering purchasing is more worn than the odometer suggests:
- Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle’s odometer. Be sure to examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is not easy to read.
- Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, search for oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.
- Check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly. If they’re crooked, contain gaps or jiggle when you bang on the dash with your hand, walk away from the purchase.
- Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
- Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle — especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals — to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
- Request a CARFAX Vehicle History Report 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 CARFAX vehicle history report online.
With any purchase, remember the old adage “let the buyer beware.” It is always best to walk into a deal as prepared as possible. In this information age, that is as easy as spending a few minutes on the internet. Using a little common sense works well, too.