How to Prevent Odometer Fraud


The NHSTA has issued a consumer advisory to warn the public about the threat of odometer fraud.

Estimates from the NHSTA say that more than 450,000 vehicles per year are sold with false odometer readings. That’s a lot of fraud!

With numbers that large, car buyers need to be aware so they can take steps to protect themselves.

In this post, we review steps you can take to help protect yourself from odometer fraud during the car buying process.


Protect yourself from odometer fraud

With hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the United States having potentially fraudulent odometer readings, you need to protect yourself when buying a car.

Check Engine LightIn September 2018, a father and son team from Mississippi plead guilty to a large scale odometer rollback scheme. They were buying large numbers of high mileage vehicles from various sources and altering the odometers to show a lower mileage. They also created fake paperwork to secure new titles showing the false lower mileage on the vehicles, so they could then resell them to individuals and auto dealerships at inflated prices.

This is not the first case like this. There is both large and small odometer fraud happening every day.

Knowing the lifetime mileage of a car is a good indicator of how many miles it may have left. The sale price of a used car is heavily influenced by the number of miles. Buying a car with a rolled-back odometer likely means paying more than it is worth.

Related post: What is my car worth?

Not only will a vehicle with its mileage reduced sell for an inflated price, but it will also deceive you about the potential durability and safety of the vehicle. You are both overpaying and increasing the chances you will have to spend more money on upkeep and repairs.

A car with the odometer rolled back is a rip-off worth protecting yourself from.


How to prevent odometer fraud

According to the NHTSA, you should take these steps to protect yourself from odometer fraud:

  • 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.
  • Digital odometers can be reprogrammed to display a lower or false mileage. 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.
  • 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 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 vehicle history report online.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact NHTSA and local law enforcement

OdometerAnother effective way to prevent odometer fraud is to purchase a CARFAX Vehicle History Report for any used car you are seriously considering buying.

Some used car dealers even offer them for free as a service to their customers. It costs $40 for a CARFAX report or $60 for three reports if you are looking at multiple vehicles.

Good luck with your search for a used vehicle! We can help inspect any car you’re interested in purchasing.

To report odometer fraud to the NHTSA call 800-424-9393 or 888-327-4236. You can also file a complaint online at


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