How to Double Check the Car’s Odometer before you buy

I personally know a of few mechanics that have gone through great lengths to hide the real mileage on a vehicle they’re selling. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that the only reason someone would ever do this is to inflate the car’s value by simply lying.

Most consumers think that studying the title’s history and doing a Carfax report will hit on all of the real-world concerns but that’s not very smart thinking.

Besides looking for errors on the paperwork, CNN Money explains how simple it is for bad guys to put one past you.

Tampering with a vehicle odometer in order to conceal the car’s actual mileage is a federal crime, but it can pay off by increasing the vehicle’s value by thousands of dollars. The more the vehicle is worth, the more money can be made by shaving some miles off the odometer.

For example, a luxury car with 65,000 miles on it – about average for a four-year-old car — is worth $2,000 to $3,000 more than one with 85,000 miles on it.

Here are some red flags to look for that will help double check the paperwork:

  • Look for loose screws or scratch marks around the dashboard.
    (Also look for fingerprints on the inside of the instrument panel’s clear cover, advises Sanchez of Kelley Blue Book.)
  • If the vehicle has an analog odometer, as opposed to newer digital readouts, check that the numbers are lined up straight. Pay special attention the 10,0000 digit.
  • When test driving the car, notice if the speedometer sticks.
  • Look for service stickers inside the door or under the hood that may give the actual mileage.
  • Look in the owner’s manual to see if there is a maintenance record there. Or see if pages that may have contained a maintenance record have been removed.
  • If you are buying the car from a dealer, ask if a computer check has been done to look for warranty records.
  • Ask to see the official title document. Look at it carefully to see if the mileage on the document has been altered.
  • Look at the date the title was issued. Be suspicious if the vehicle is being sold shortly after the title was issued. A new title could have been issued simply to hide a mileage alteration.
  • Look for signs of wear in “high touch” areas like the steering wheel, arm rests and pedals. Also, if any of these items looks brand new, as if it had been recently replaced, that may indicate an attempt to hide the vehicle’s real age.
  • Have a mechanic of your choosing inspect the vehicle. As part of that inspection, he should look for signs of tampering.

Read “10 tips: Nab odometer roll-back scammers” by CNN Money
Photo: bunchofpants on Flickr

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