How to Avoid Odometer Fraud

People sometimes roll back rental car odometers to avoid paying mileage fees. People may also tamper with odometers when they want to make more money selling a used auto. 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..


  1. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 1
    Examine the odometer for the number of miles.
    • Automobiles 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. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 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. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 3
    Ask to see oil change and maintenance receipts and inspection stickers. Examine the mileage on the receipts and inspection stickers and compare to the odometer. Inspection stickers can be found on door frames or windows.
  4. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 4
    Look for missing screws on or near the dashboard. If the dashboard isn't put together perfectly, the odometer may have been tampered with.
  5. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 5
    Inspect the brake pedal and floor mats. If either is badly worn but the odometer has low mileage, it may be a case of odometer fraud.
  6. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 6
    Take the vehicle to a mechanic and ask him to examine the car for wear and 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. Image titled Avoid Odometer Fraud Step 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.


  • In the United States you can check a vehicle's history and odometer reading at vehicle, a non-profit organization established by an act of Congress.
  • As with pedal and carpet wear, windshield and paint pitting that seems excessive compared to the odometer mileage are also cause for concern. Of course, absence of these tells you nothing - windshields can be replaced, "bra" use or repaints, etc. But if you have a windshield that's unusable while driving into the sun, but the odometer says 40,000 miles, be suspicious.

Article Info

Categories: Cars