Many car importers and local dealerships including individual sellers tamper with odometer readings when they want to make more money selling a used car. The average rollback is about 30,000 miles (48,000 km), which may increase the sale amount by thousands of dollars. Detect and avoid odometer fraud by examining titles, maintenance records, inspection stickers, tire tread depth and vehicle parts. People sometimes also roll back rental car odometers to avoid paying mileage fees.
1. Examine the odometer for the number of miles.
- Motor vehicles average about 12,000 miles a year. For example, if a car is 5 years old but has far fewer than 60,000 miles, the odometer may have been tampered with.
- Look closely at the numbers on the odometer. Some auto makers program odometers to show an asterisk if the mileage is changed.
- General Motors mechanical odometers have a black space between the numbers. If you see a white or silver space, the GM odometer probably has been changed.
2. Ask the seller to show you the original title, not a duplicate.
If the title is from out of state or brand new, it may be a case of title washing or title fraud, and the mileage given may be false.
- Be sure to examine the title’s mileage number closely and look for smudging or other tampering. The title should show the mileage in crisp type on a clean background.
3. Ask to see oil change/maintenance receipts & inspection stickers.
4. Look for missing screws on or near the dashboard.
If the dashboard isn’t put together perfectly and the screws inside look scratched, the odometer may have been tampered with.
5. Inspect the brake pedals, gear knob and floor mats.
6. Ask your mechanic to examine the car for wear & tear.
A mechanic knows what parts would be original on an older car. For example, a car’s odometer may say 30,000 miles. Beware if the car has new parts that ordinarily would not be replaced until 60,000 miles. This may indicate odometer tampering.
7. Measure the depth of the tread on the car’s tires.
If the odometer says 25,000 miles, the car should still have its original tires, with tread deeper than than 2/32 of an inch (1.5875 mm). Ask the mechanic to check tire tread with a depth gauge.
- You can check tire tread depth yourself using a penny. Insert the penny into the tread upside down. If Abraham Lincoln’s head is partly covered, the tire has more than 2/32 of an inch.
8. Verify mileage with KEBS and QISJ before importation.
Quality Inspection Services Inc. Japan who have been mandated by Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to conduct road worthiness checks for motor vehicles being exported to Kenya have been collecting data about all cars exported to Kenya and they provide limited access to their database to verify the mileage of the vehicles during the inspection overseas.
You can confirm the mileage of a car before it was imported into Kenya by using the Chassis Number on this page: Car Mileage Verification.