Odometer fraud or odometer rollback, is any kind of alteration to the odometer that results in a change to the mileage reading. This is a felony offense throughout the United States.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with altered odometers. Their website also reports that there are over a million vehicles on the road that have had their odometers rolled back, and consumers lose an estimated $1 billion due to odometer fraud each year.
Odometer fraud can cause big problems for both consumers and insurance professionals. For consumers, having an inaccurate odometer can lead to unexpected part breakdowns and high repair costs. And, the consumer buys a vehicle that is usually worth much less than what they paid for it. DMV.com estimates that on average, a customer who buys a vehicle that’s odometer has been tampered with will pay about $4,000 in unexpected repairs, of course this could be much more depending on the number of miles that were decreased on the odometer.
The number of miles on a vehicle is one factor in calculating an auto insurance premium. If a vehicle has more miles on it than was reported, underwriting and premium costs may not be accurate, and more claims may be made than was expected. Insurance professionals can help educate their customers about how to avoid buying a used car with an adjusted odometer. The NHTSA website provides tips for consumers on how to prevent being a victim of odometer fraud. The tips include:
- 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.
- 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 the car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
If odometer fraud is suspected, consumers should contact the state’s enforcement agency. There is an online form to fill out for the state of Utah.