How common is car odometer rollback fraud?

Car odometer rollback fraud is a significant issue affecting the automotive market today. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 450,000 vehicles per year with false odometer readings are sold, costing American car buyers more than $1 billion annually. 

Odometer rollback fraud involves various techniques to manipulate a vehicle’s mileage, making it appear less used and more valuable. This includes the disconnection, resetting, or alteration of a vehicle’s odometer with the intent to reduce the number of miles. Older vehicles with mechanical odometers can be manually rolled back using tools, while modern vehicles with digital odometers require specialized electronic equipment to alter the mileage display.

Odometer tampering is illegal under federal and state laws in many countries, including the United States. Consumer protection laws like the Federal Odometer Act make it a crime to alter or manipulate an odometer with the intent to misrepresent the vehicle’s mileage. Penalties for odometer fraud can include fines, imprisonment, and civil liability for damages.

Odometer fraud is a vehicle safety issue

Rolling back an odometer is a deceptive practice that not only misrepresents a vehicle’s value but also poses vehicle safety risks. Despite laws that have been established to protect consumers, dealerships are selling more vehicles with rolled back and tampered odometers. This is partly because of the price increase and shortage of used cars on the market. Even private sellers are rolling back odometers to avoid excess mileage charges on leases. Signs of odometer rollback include:

  • Inconsistent vehicle records
  • Unusual wear and tear
  • Evidence of tampering

Understanding these signs and taking proactive steps can help you safeguard against odometer rollback. While obtaining a vehicle history report is the best way to detect odometer fraud, it is not foolproof. Here are additional steps you can take: 

  • Compare the title and mileage of the vehicle with its odometer. Be on the lookout for mileage notation that is obscured or hard to read.
  • Check the vehicle’s maintenance and inspection records for discrepancies in reported mileage. You can obtain these from service centers, state inspections, and oil change and maintenance stickers on the car.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
  • Examine the wear and tear on the gas, brake, and clutch pedals for a mismatch between the vehicle’s condition and the odometer reading.
  • Look for evidence of tampering around the dashboard or instrument panel.
  • Request a vehicle history report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. These reports often include mileage readings from various points in the vehicle’s history. 
  • If the seller does not have a history report, use the car’s VIN to order one online or from an auto credit company like Carfax and Autocheck.

It’s important to remember, odometer rollback can happen with any type of car, but digital odometers can make detecting odometer fraud even more challenging. If you suspect odometer rollback fraud, report it immediately to your state’s enforcement agency. This action can help protect other consumers and hold accountable those who are responsible.

Are you a victim?

Unscrupulous car dealers and repair shops bet on consumers paying more for low mileage vehicles, even those with odometer rollbacks. However, the federal Odometer Act holds liable anyone who tampers with an odometer or makes a false statement on an odometer disclosure with intent to defraud when selling a vehicle. Under this law, victims of odometer fraud are entitled to a monetary recovery up to $10,000 or three times the actual damages.

Need the expertise of an auto fraud attorney? If you suspect the odometer on your new car has been tampered with, then it’s time to hire an attorney. Lawsuits with car dealers can be complex, but car dealer fraud attorneys like Robert F. Brennan have the experience needed to aggressively take on fraudulent car dealers and sellers. Call today to get the justice you deserve.

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