What is Odometer fraud?

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For most of us the odometer reading on a used vehicle, indicating how far it has been driven is one of the first things that we will check when evaluating a vehicle.  The odometer reading has a great bearing on the value of the vehicle and the future likely cost of servicing or repair. 

The odometer reading has such a large influence on the price of a used car that wind back to misrepresent the mileage is a booming business.  In the US it has been estimated to be a  $US10 billion industry  with an average cost to consumers of $US4,000 in repairs.

Here in New Zealand, at least half of the approximately 150,000 vehicles registered each year have been previously registered overseas, mainly in Japan.  In 1995,  estimates by the government  placed the value of the fraud at approximately $NZ 110 million per year over the previous seven years, affecting a significant number of the 350,000 cars imported over this period.  Former Customs Minister, Neil Kirton claims the fraud is on a larger scale than the Serious Fraud Offices famous "Wine box" investigation.  

What can be done?

Some vehicles can raise suspicion, either by higher than expected levels of wear, unusually cheap price or other indicators, (learn more about what to look for in our lemon guide), but in most cases it is difficult, if not impossible to tell if a particular vehicle's odometer has been wound back or "clocked" without a professional inspection of the instrument itself.  To find out about the technical inspection services we offer, click here.

In our experience, most tampered odometers are typically wound back by between 20 to 40 thousand kilometres off the actual odometer reading.  This may add  between $NZ 2,000 to 5,000 to the value of the vehicle.  The higher the value of the vehicle the more money can be made from the tampering and therefore the more likely it is to have been altered.

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