How to spot car with odometer tampering

WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

When deciding how much to pay for a second-hand car, top of mind may be the number of kilometres the vehicle has already travelled.

Your first step may be to check the vehicle’s odometer reading, however a recent court case has illustrated why investigating further could be a smart move.

Late last year, a Ballajura motor vehicle repairer was fined $8,500 by the Perth Magistrate’s Court for winding back the odometer reading of a 2015 vehicle by about 60,000 kilometres, before selling it to a car-yard, which then on-sold it to another buyer.

Winding back the odometer on a vehicle is the ultimate deception by car sellers and is a serious breach of consumer law.

Aside from misrepresenting a car’s value, if an odometer doesn’t reflect the number of kilometres a vehicle has actually travelled, the necessary checks, services and repairs may not be carried out at the required times, potentially leaving unsuspecting consumers exposed to mechanical and safety issues.

Both digital and analogue odometers can be tampered with and changed. Many newer vehicles have digital control units or computers that may allow for the odometer to be replaced or re-programed using fraudulent software.

You can have the vehicle inspected by a third-party professional, who may be able to uncover inconsistencies between the condition of the vehicle and the odometer reading. For example, if the interior is worn, but the odometer reading is low, it could indicate tampering.

Ensure the car you’re buying comes with a log-book and check the history for records of odometer readings to ensure they are correct and consistent. You can also contact the dealer or repairer and ask them to check their records.

If you have concerns that a stamp or input in the logbook may be incorrect, you can contact the mechanic in question to ascertain if the vehicle has actually been there for a service.

A Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check can tell you whether a car has been stolen, has money owing on it or has been a repairable write-off, and sometimes may include an odometer reading check.

Car buyers who believe they have been misled can lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website: www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au

Gary Newcombe city 1
Gary Newcombe city 1, by CP Media

Gary Newcombe

Commissioner for Consumer Protection

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